Three former care workers at Swaylands, a school for vulnerable children, have been sentenced to prison for a total of 35 years for indecently assaulting young boys.
Following trial at Maidstone Crown Court, 71-year-old Colwyn Baker was jailed for 20 years for 20 counts of indecent assault. 74-year-old David Hennessy was sentenced to 12 years for six counts and 62-year-old Nigel Putman was given a three-year sentence for two offences.
The three men, who denied all charges, abused young boys at Swaylands School between 1963 and 1979. Swaylands was a residential facility in Penshurst, Kent, for boys with emotional and behavioural issues. The school closed in 1993.
Abuse ‘Almost the Norm’ at Swaylands
During the trial, jurors were told how abuse was “almost the norm” at Swaylands School. They heard how Baker, Hennessy and Putman “positively encouraged” pupils to abuse each other and used blackmail to ensure pupils kept quiet about the sickening abuse they suffered.
Pupils were in fear of the three men, with some boys abused almost every night. One boy was allegedly so scared of Colwyn Baker that he either slept in stairwells or tried to stay awake most nights. The jury heard how David Hennessy told one of his alleged victims “It’s not worth crying, it won’t help you” after Hennessy abused him during his first two days at the school.
Baker, Hennessy and Putman were charged in February 2014 after an investigation by Kent Police. Both Hennessy and Baker had previous child sex abuse convictions from the early 1990s.
One of the Worst Possible Breaches of Trust
Judge Philip Statman said, “This is one of the worst possible breaches of trust a court can deal with” as he sentenced the three men at Maidstone Crown Court.
He said to Colwyn Baker: "You must have thought as you entered your seventh decade you'd got away with it."
Thankfully, along with Hennessy and Putman, Mr Baker did not get away with it and the three men have now been brought to justice.
We are pleased that the victims of abuse at Swaylands School have obtained justice despite it having happened such a long time ago. This shows that perpetrators of abuse can be brought to justice regardless of when they committed their crimes.
Whilst Swaylands School itself has closed down, it was run at the time by Barnet Council who could be held responsible for the abuse that occurred at the school.
Jessica Standley is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK, specialising in child sex abuse cases.
Slater and Gordon’s specialist team of Abuse Lawyers currently represent over 800 victims of sexual abuse including many survivors of abuse at schools and other educational establishments.
We understand how difficult and upsetting it can be to speak out about abuse and give you our assurance that all communication with us will be dealt with in the strictest of confidence.
For free and completely confidential legal advice, call us on 0800 916 9046, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, you can contact us online and let us know when and where you would like us to call you.