October 20 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, August 7, 2014
A retired primary school teacher who molested pupils as young as eight in a campaign of sexual abuse that lasted almost two decades could die behind bars.
Joseph Birtles, 81, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, was jailed for seven years yesterday at the Old Bailey for the attacks in the 1970s and 80s.
He sometimes carried them out in front of the class and continued with them despite allegations being made against him. He was first accused of molesting a 10-year-old more than 30 years ago at Kensington Primary School in Manor Park.
His abuse was “hushed up” by the school, the court heard, and a chance to catch him in 1984 was missed because Birtles stole a dossier of abuse claims from the headmaster’s study.
Birtles, from Wiltshire, was convicted of 15 counts of indecent assault involving seven victims between 1972 and 1984 after being foun d guilty at an earlier trial. He denied all charges against him..
Judge Paul Worsley said jailing him was not a decision he took lightly and noted he could end his days in prison.
“It was a flagrant breach of trust in respect of those boys who were in your care,” the judge said.
“You are convicted of a range of offences in respect of seven boys, some as young as eight and ranging up to 11 or 12.
“They were young, vulnerable, pre-pubescent boys and you took advantage of them.”
The judge said the abuse had been “hushed up” and it was likely Birtles had stolen a file on the allegations.
The case was reopened in 2012 when one of the boys told police he had been sexually abused.
Birtles did not give evidence, but his legal team suggested rumours had “spread like wildfire” because he was a tactile, openly gay teacher.
Nick Cotter, defending, pleaded for “mercy” because Birtles suffers from depression, dementia and diabetes.