Former schools staff member convicted of sexual assaults in the 1980s

By Tristan Harris Wednesday 18 December 2013 Updated: 19/12 14:52

A FORMER school member of staff who held jobs in North Worcestershire and Oxfordshire was convicted of sexually abusing pupils in the 1980s.

Jonathan O’Brien, 56, of Fairfield Road, Bosham, West Sussex, was found guilty of five charges of gross indecency and 15 counts of indecent assault yesterday (Tuesday) after a four-week trial at Chichester Crown Court. He had denied all the charges against him and was cleared of two further indecent assaults.

He will be sentenced at Chichester Crown Court on February 7 next year.

A total of 12 offences were committed against seven boys at Winterfold House School, Chaddesley Corbett, between 1980 and 1985, with the others taking place against three pupils at The Oratory School, near Reading, between 1985 and 1989.

Det Sgt Steve Cook from North Worcestershire CID led the investigation.

He said inquiries began in November last year when a man came forward to say he had been sexually abused at Winterfold School by O’Brien who taught subjects including sports and photography there in the early 1980s.

After the victim informed other school friends about the investigation, further victims came forward, including some who went to The Oratory School.

More victims, including some who are now living abroad, got in touch with the police after O'Brien was initially arrested and charged in February this year.

The court heard how offences involved pupils boarding at both schools and some happened at O’Brien’s private residence in Oxfordshire while he was teaching at The Oratory.

DS Cook said: “O’Brien engaged in the systematic abuse of boys over a long period of time.

"In doing so he also disgracefully abused the position of trust he was in and that was particularly relevant in this case as he was teaching in boarding schools where the children were away from their families and had nowhere else to go.

“He exploited their vulnerability and they did not feel at that time that they could come forward because ‘it wasn’t the thing to do’ and that they wouldn’t be believed."

He added they were extremely relieved it had come out into the open.

“O’Brien refused to comment when we questioned him about these matters despite the growing weight of the evidence against him.

"It has been a further aggravating feature of the case that his denials forced his victims to go through the ordeal of testifying in court.

“The fact some of them were prepared to travel long distances from abroad in order to do so illustrates how determined they were to expose O’Brien and I would also like to pay tribute to all the witnesses for the amazing courage they have shown in coming forward."

He said incidents had a wider impact on friends, family and the wider communities around the schools where they happened.

He concluded by saying he hoped Tuesday's conviction would help the victims move on with their lives and reassure others that even if offences like those were reported years later, the police would still investigate thoroughly and bring those responsible to justice.

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