Sunday 18 March 2018

Terrible price paid by teacher cleared in 20 minutes of sexually assaulting pupils

James Orr and Nigel Bunyan

A BRITISH schoolteacher cleared of sexually assaulting six primary school children has spoken of the enormous distress the "unfounded allegations" had caused his family.

Peter Wilson, 35, was forced to sign an agreement with social services that meant he had to live apart from his wife and their newborn son. He was separated from his family for eight months.

Yesterday a jury took 20 minutes to acquit him of all charges, and outside court he spoke of his relief at being able to rebuild his life with his wife and son.

“The past 18 months or so have been the most stressful of my life and my wife’s,” Mr Wilson said.

“My greatest distress was that, as a result of these unfounded allegations, social services were present at the birth of our first child and I was required to sign an agreement to say that I could not live in the same house as my wife and newborn baby.

“Now that this horrible ordeal is finally over I look forward to rebuilding my life with my wife, new son and the rest of my family.”

Mr Wilson, of Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancs, was suspended by the primary school in Blackpool in April last year.

The school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, took action after two children told a teacher that Mr Wilson had touched their bottoms and kissed them.

In opening the case against him at Preston Crown Court, the prosecution said Mr Wilson was a “well-liked and well-respected member of staff” until the point of his suspension for his alleged “wholly inappropriate” behaviour that lasted for several months.

The court was told that the children all gave similar accounts of Mr Wilson rubbing his hand down their backs or leaning in cheek-to-cheek with them before patting them on the bottom. Jeremy Lasker, prosecuting, said it was the job of the jury to determine whether the allegations amounted to “playground gossip” or much worse.

During the trial, Mr Wilson broke down in the witness box as he denied gaining any sexual gratification from his behaviour, and said that the touching had been completely innocent.

He said that four of his accusers were lacking in confidence and needed to be praised, and that the claims against him had been made up and were “probably malicious”.

Yesterday the jury cleared Mr Wilson of 11 counts of indecent assault relating to five girls. Earlier in the trial the judge ordered the jury to find him not guilty on three further counts in relation to another girl.

As one of the conditions of his bail, the teacher was prevented from having unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16.

Legal experts said this would not usually have stopped him having contact with his own son, because his wife would be classed as the supervisor. However, it is understood that social services acted independently of the bail conditions and took separate court action to demand that he sign the agreement to live apart from his family.

Mr Wilson remains suspended from his post at the school while an internal investigation takes place.

A spokesman for Blackpool council said: “We can confirm that the member of staff remains suspended ahead of an internal investigation following the conclusion of the court case.”

Mr Wilson, who was supported throughout the trial by his wife, Clare, who also teaches at the school, added: “I am obviously absolutely delighted to have been acquitted.”

Teaching unions have for some time had concerns that staff who have allegations made against them are not protected by anonymity.

Campaigners say that at many schools there often exists a culture of “guilty until proven innocent” which can wreck teachers’ careers.

According to figures from the National Union of Teachers, 95 per cent of allegations against staff have no foundation.

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