Ex-teacher cleared of child cruelty charges

Oakwood is now a pupil referral unit on Chilton Way in Stowmarket.

Oakwood is now a pupil referral unit on Chilton Way in Stowmarket.

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An ex-teacher from Lancaster has been cleared of child cruelty after the case against him was dropped.

Graham Hallett, 66, of Aldcliffe Road, had pleaded not guilty to one allegedoffence of cruelty to a child aged under 16.

His trial at Ipswich Crown Court ended unexpectedly in the sixth week when the prosecution told Judge Rupert Overbury that no further evidence was being offered against him.

The move came as two other former members of staff at the now-closed OakwoodSchool in Stowmarket, Suffolk, who faced a number of similar charges changedsome pleas to guilty. Another ex-Oakwood teacher, Stephen Player, 61, of Spratton, Northamptonshire, also walked free from court after Jacqueline Carey, prosecuting, said no further evidence was being offered against him either.

The four men had been arrested and charged over allegations of ill treatment of around 20 pupils between 1974 and 1999 at the boarding school which catered for boys aged between eight and 16 with educational and behavioural difficulties.

Allegations made by ex- pupils to the jury included beatings and being force fed food which staff were said to have known would make them sick.

After Judge Overbury formally discharged Hallett, his barrister Matthew Gowensaid he would be submitting a claim for £3,109 to cover his client’s travellingand accommodation costs during the trial.

Mr Gowen said that Hallett, who since his arrest and questioning two years ago had consistently maintained his innocence, had in that time travelled 5,500 miles inconnection with the case.

Gerald West, 70, of Gislingham, Suffolk, who was the deputy head Michael Watts, 59, of Netley Abbey, Southampton, both changed their not guilty pleas to guilty on two of the charges against them. They are due to be sentenced on Friday.