DEVON and Cornwall Police has welcomed the jailing of a former school teacher and TV presenter for the sexual assault on a boy 60 years ago.
John Earle (87), of Upton Pyne, between Crediton and Exeter, was deputy headmaster at a private school in Okehampton when he committed the offences between 1957 and 1962 against a boy who was just nine when the abuse began.
Mr Earle had previously pleaded guilty to the six counts of sexual assault and appeared at Exeter Crown Court today, April 28, for sentencing.
Mr Earle was sentenced to four years in prison.
Speaking after the verdict his victim Mr Iain Peters, now aged 69, said the historic abuse had "blighted his life" but "the burden of shame had been lifted" after coming forward.
The court heard that the Mr Peters went to Upcott House Preparatory School for boys as a boarder at aged nine in 1957.
He described to police how he was taken from his bed in the dormitory into the private room of Earle and forced to engage in sexual activity. Mr Earle also took the boy to his boat moored at Dartmouth where further sexual offences were committed.
The abuse continued on a regular basis throughout the victim’s time at the school until he left in 1962, aged 14. The school closed shortly after the victim left.
Earle was well known in the mountaineering community and he was an adventure cameraman making films of his expeditions to the Himalayas, Baffin Island and South America.
This work led him into a career with the BBC, presenting the children’s show "Tom Tom" in the 1970s. He also presented a number of episodes of the popular children’s storytelling show "Jackanory", also in the 70s.
After the case Mr Peters described how the abuse had affected his whole life and he praised the police for their work which had allowed him to begin to come to terms with what had happened to him.
Mr Peters said: “The terrible burden of shame which caused me pain and blighted my life for 60 years has now been lifted. My sincere thanks to all those who have supported me to reach this outcome.
“While this case dealt with child sexual abuse committed a long time ago, there are far too many vulnerable children being still abused today and we - as a society- must work harder to stop this. The issue needs to be pressed as an urgent social problem with profound consequences. We have to try to understand why abusers pervert sexual power and do such terrible damage to children.
“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of the police who worked on this case and I thank them for the superbly professional and sensitive way they treated me at all stages of the proceedings.
"Given how severely under-resourced this vital public service is, the police officers who investigated the crimes committed against me did a truly great job.
“Once I reported the abuse I suffered, I was able to go through expert counselling which transformed my life. Counselling allowed me to understand what had been done to me, so that after decades of painful shame and guilt I am now able to live freely for the first time since I was nine-years-old.
“I would assure other victims who want to come forward that the police were brilliantly supportive and that professional help can be hugely liberating for survivors of child sex abuse.”
Investigating officer Detective Constable Martin Pearse, from the Sexual Offences and Domestic Abuse Investigation Team at Bideford, said: “The conviction and sentence in this matter is welcomed by the police and will offer some comfort to the victim who as a child was subjected to repeated serious sexual assaults by Earle over a prolonged period of time.
“During the time of the offences Earle was in a position of trust as a deputy headmaster at a private school. The victim has shown great strength in reporting this to us and throughout the lengthy investigation. He remains supported by partner agencies and he is now able to have some kind of closure.
“We hope this result will also provide reassurance to other victims of sexual offending, to help give them confidence to report, reassurance that their account is believed and wherever possible that suspects will be brought to justice and held to account for their actions.
“Should there be any others who have been affected by this case then I encourage them to come forward to report to this to the police.”
Mr Peters has respectively requested that he is not approached by the press or media in any form as neither his family nor Mr Peters will be making any further comment.