Belfast Telegraph

Ex-headmaster spared jail for sexual abuse of boy (15)

By Nina Massey

A disgraced former headmaster who was honoured by the Queen for his services to young people has been spared jail after admitting sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.

In August 2016, retired John Coatman (76), was found guilty of gross indecency with a member of a youth group he was involved with in the 1970s.

His conviction was thrown out by the Court of Appeal last April, because of an error on the charge sheet put before the jury.

When the case returned to the Old Bailey for a retrial last month, Coatman pleaded guilty to an amended charge of indecent assault.

Coatman, of Leyburn Gardens, Croydon, south London, was sentenced by Judge Anne Molyneux to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

He was also made subject to a 12-month supervision order.

The court heard that the teenager would visit Coatman's home, where they would engage in "rough and tumble" "play fighting", which later took a sexual turn as the adult touched the boy over his clothes.

Matters escalated when the pair undressed in Coatman's bedroom and the head teacher touched his "younger charge" sexually on three occasions.

The defendant was head teacher of St Andrew's secondary school in Croydon, but the complainant was not a pupil at the school, the court heard. Coatman retired in 1998 after 42 years and was awarded an MBE in 2012.

Prosecutor Mark Trafford QC, told the Old Bailey: "The defendant's MBE for services to young people was something that he (the complainant) found difficult to comprehend under the circumstances."

Claims against Coatman, who has an inoperable cancer, surfaced in 2014.

In a victim impact statement, the complainant said the incidents had left him with emotional difficulties in his later life, and he also suffered from depression.

Sentencing Coatman, Ms Molyneux said: "You were in a position of considerable trust, and he (the complainant) trusted you. He enjoyed being with you over a short period of time."

Belfast Telegraph

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