Oakwood School pupil denies lying to get compensation

The old Oakwood School in Stowmarket.

The old Oakwood School in Stowmarket. - Credit: Archant

A former pupil at a Suffolk school where children were allegedly subjected to a “regime of abusive behaviour” by the former deputy head and three teachers has denied telling lies to get a compensation pay out.

The witness, who is now 52, told a jury at Ipswich Crown Court, that he was given regular beatings with a stick or slipper while he was at Oakwood school in Stowmarket 40 years ago and had frequently run away from the school.

He said he would be taken back to the school by the police who he claimed weren’t interested in his claims he was being ill treated and he would get another beating for running away when he got back.

“The beatings carried on and never stopped,” he told the court.

He described the beatings as “over the top”. “They beat the hell out of you. It’s not acceptable,” he said.

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He claimed that in addition to being beaten he was force-fed by the former deputy head of the school, Gerald West and senior master Graham Hallett. “They were obsessed at making you eat your food.”

He recalled being force-fed celery,which he hated, resulting in him vomiting. He said West and Hallett had then forced him to eat his vomit.

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The witness admitted contacting a firm of solicitors concerning a civil claim being made by a number of former pupils concerning their alleged ill treatment at the school but denied he was telling lies and that his allegations were “all about getting money.”

West, who is known by his middle name Roger, 70, of Martins Meadow, Gislingham, has denied ten charges of cruelty to a person under the age of 16 and Hallett, 66, of Lancaster, has denied one charge of child cruelty.

Also before the court is Stephen Player, 59, of London, a senior master at Oakwood, who has denied six offences of child cruelty and Michael Watts, 59, of Southamton, a child care officer at Oakwood, who has denied seven offences of child cruelty.

The offences are alleged to have been committed between 1974 and 1999 and relate to 20 victims.

It had been alleged pupils, who were sent to the school because they had educational and behavioural problems, were repeatedly subjected to physical ill treatment including slaps to the face, punches and kicks, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Several boys complained of being force fed if they didn’t finish their meals and then being forced to eat food covered in vomit if they were sick, claimed Jacqueline Carey, prosecuting.

One boy allegedly suffered a fractured wrist after the deputy head Gerald West grabbed his hand and bent it backwards so hard he heard it snap and another child allegedly suffered a head injury after a teacher pushed his head against a wall.

Another alleged victim claimed he was pushed into a swimming pool by a teacher who knew he couldn’t swim and another alleged he lost two fingernails after a teacher slammed a door on his hand.

Another pupil who had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumour claimed a teacher, who was aware of his medical history, had smacked his head into a wall and had thrown a cricket ball at his head.

“The violence meted out to them was all too prevalent a feature of life at Oakwood school where a regime of abusive behaviour existed,” alleged Miss Carey.

Oakwood School opened in 1974 and shut in 2000.

The trial continues today.

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