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Retired Northern Ireland teacher jailed for 13 years for abusing students

By Paul Higgins

The former head of maths at St Colmans College in Newry, described by a judge as a “persistent, predatory and opportunistic offender who abused young people,” has been jailed for 13 years.

Ordering the sentences for each of his six victims to be served consecutively to each other, Judge Brian Sherard told 75-year-old Patrick James Carton he had “stood back” from the case to consider the totality principle but that having done so, “I still consider that the global sentence is entirely in keeping with your course of persistent offending".

Standing in the dock of Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Antrim, Carton appeared shocked at the sentence while his relatives close by in the public gallery held their head to their faces and cried at the sentence.

Jailing the pensioner and imposing a Sexual Offences Prevention Order to run alongside the prison sentence, Judge Sherard told Carton that while he had been a “beacon of respectability,” had devoted his career to teaching maths to children “with some considerable success” and was held “in high esteem".

He added “all of this contributes to make your fall from grace even greater and ostensibly a man of good character until 75, its clear that you have been offending from middle age.”

Police welcomed the sentencing praising the "great strength" of the six victims who gave evidence during the trial.

"I hope today’s result has lifted a huge weight from their shoulders," said Inspector Michelle Shaw. She also urged anyone who had been victim of a sexual offence to contact officers saying the PSNI had the expertise to offer them the proper support.

"The PSNI Public Protection Branch takes every report of sexual offences extremely seriously, whether or not they are recent."

At the end of his seven week trial last March, the jury of seven women and five men deliberated for three hours and 40 minutes over two days before finding Carton unanimously guilty on 28 counts of indecent assault and by a majority decision of 11 to one on a further count of indecent assault, all of which were committed on various dates between 17 February 1983 and 30 June 2007.

The jury heard that Carton, from Marguerite Close in Newcastle and who taught at St Colman’s in Newry and De la Salle in Downpatrick, had given private maths lessons to the six victims, abusing them in their own bedrooms.

The jury heard similar testimony from each of the six victims, each of them teenagers at the time of the abuse, that Carton had a “star system” of discipline with three stars serving “as a warning,” four resulting in a smack, five stars got a smack over underwear and six stars meant the pupil was smacked on his or her a bare bottom.

The victims gave evidence that on occasions, Carton instructed them to lie on their bed where he smacked them but that in other incidents, they were “put across” Carton’s knee.

One of the females repeatedly assaulted by Carton told the jury she had repeatedly told Carton to stop but that it was “very hard” for a teenager to challenge a then 50 year-old man.

She said that when he first told her if his methods she was “shocked” and thought her tutor was “joking".

“I told him I didn’t want to get smacked. I didn’t like it. It was not right,” she said.

“He said this would make me pass my maths. It would make my parents proud.”

She outlined how, when she was in lower sixth and before she got her A level results, the abuse escalated to sexual touching with Carton telling her it was her “award” for doing well in her lessons.

One woman gave emotional testimony the abuse she suffered at the hands of Carton had “ruined” her life while other victims told the court how they remembered their tears falling onto their work sheets and how the smacking left them unable to concentrate.

The male victim recounted how Carton pulled his pants down to smack him while being taught maths at his home in the 1980s, describing one specific incident where he had to “fight him off with his pants around his ankles” because the Carton would not stop hitting him.

During his police interviews Carton told police the various families had asked him to tutor their children through “word of mouth,” claiming that he did not smack the children to punish but in his mind it was to challenge the children and had always been done with the parents’ consent.

He denied gaining any sexual gratification or any criminal wrongdoing, telling police it was “the most effective method” that led to “the best results”.

In court on Wednesday prosecuting lawyer Laura Ievers submitted there were numerous aggravating features to the case including breaching the trust that was placed in Carton in that he “exploited the tutoring arrangements in order to abuse” the teenagers as well as the “sheer number” of victims with the offences spanning some 24 years.

She said it was also an aggravating feature that the offences happened not just in the victims’ homes but in the privacy of their bedrooms “where they were entitled to feel safe” and the incidents have had a “significant impact” on them.

Defence barrister Mark Barlow conceded that although Carton “is going to custody, it’s as simple as that,” he submitted that his offences were “at the bottom of the scale.”

As a result of the multiple convictions, “he has lost everything,” Mr Barlow told the court, “his standing in the community that he has served....and now he will be portrayed as a serial sexual offender who abused young teenage girls and a young teenage boy".

The lawyer said while Carton has always accepted the smacking aspect of his offences, he denies and continues to maintain his innocence regarding the more serious sex abuse aspect of the case which leads to “an absence of remorse".

Mr Barlow submitted it was not necessary to impose a “draconian” Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) as at 75-years-old, Carton has been assessed by probation not to pose a risk.

In his lengthy sentencing remarks however, Judge Sherard said it was his view, having read the reports and heard weeks of evidence, that despite his years Carton “are nothing less of a danger now than when you committed these offences” so while SOPO’s are draconian with breaches carrying a maximum of five years in prison, he believed such an order was “proportionate and necessary” to protect the public and young people particularly.

Having recounted briefly how each of the victims was abused, Judge Sherard said Carton’s offending was “persistent and unrelenting,” committed across three different decades when he used “their naivety with your manipulation and deception” to facilitate the abuse.

As well as the jail sentence, Carton was orders to sign the police sex offenders register for the rest of his life.

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