A PENSIONER convicted of repeatedly sexually abusing a teenage girl while he was in charge of a South Cumbria school has been jailed.
Former headmaster Roger Whitehouse’s historical offences occurred over the course of several months during the 1980s while the female pupil was aged 16. Many times a week, Carlisle Crown Court heard today (MON), Whitehouse kissed and groped the girl over her clothing – often in his locked school study. On one specific occasion he tried to kiss her on a boat on a lake, prompting her to feign sea sickness to get away.
Whitehouse, now aged 79 and latterly of Seaview, Haverigg, denied a string of indecent assault allegations. He was acquitted of six charges following a trial, but found guilty by a jury of four charges.
Giving evidence, his victim said of the offending: “I didn’t want it to happen. I didn’t agree to it. I didn’t consent. I didn’t feel I could stop it because he was the headmaster.” Whitehouse’s criminal conduct, she said, made her feel “rotten, awful and disgusting”.
Th court heard Whitehouse hadn’t committed any offences since and had suffered mental health difficulties and “personal struggles”. But he continued to deny that he indecently assaulted the female and had shown, Judge Nicholas Barker noted, “not a moment of remorse”.
Judge Barker jailed Whitehouse for 32 months, and ordered him to sign the sex offenders’ register for the rest of his life. “Having heard the evidence, having seen documentary evidence, it is clear to me in many ways you ran that school as something of a private fiefdom,” said the judge, “free from proper scrutiny and therefore free to abuse (the female) in the way that you did.”
Whitehouse received a suspended prison sentence in January for an historical child cruelty crime which pre-dated the indecent assaults. This was committed during his previous employment at Witherslack School, Grange-over-Sands, during the 1970s when – a jury concluded – he made a boy walk barefooted along a rough quarry track, leaving the youngster’s feet cut and bleeding.
Senior Investigating Officer Doug Marshall said: “It was clear from the account provided by the victim that Whitehouse’s position as the school headteacher and as the girl’s Key Worker meant she felt she was unable to report the assaults or take any other action to prevent them.
“Whitehouse would have been well aware of the position of trust he was in as headteacher and the child’s key worker but he abused that trust multiple times in committing these offences.
“I hope the outcome of this case demonstrates how seriously Cumbria Constabulary takes this type of offending and that all victims – however long ago the offences took place – will be listened to and treated with dignity and respect.”
A spokesperson for the NSPCC has said: “Whitehouse exploited his position of trust to commit a series of sexual offences against a young girl in a place where she should have felt safe and free from harm.
“An enormous amount of trust is placed in school staff to ensure the wellbeing and safety of children, and he breached that trust time and again for his own sick gratification.
“While decades have passed, this case is proof that victims of child sexual abuse will be listened to whenever they speak out, and we hope this survivor is receiving all appropriate support.”
Children and young people with any worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk