Paedophile ex-Stowmarket head has application to appeal conviction denied

Former headteacher of the Oakwood School Eric De Smith arriving at Ipswich Crown Court for sentencin

Former headteacher of the Oakwood School Eric De Smith arriving at Ipswich Crown Court for sentencing

A paedophile former Suffolk headteacher has had his application to appeal his conviction turned down by a High Court judge.

Eric De Smith, 76, of Danes Close, Stowmarket, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in May after previously being convicted of seven sex offences on four boys following a trial at Ipswich Crown Court.

Three of De Smith’s victims were pupils at Oakwood School, which was based in Chilton Road, Stowmarket. The school closed permanently in 2000. De Smith taught there for more than 20 years until his retirement in 1996.

He was also convicted of sexually abusing another boy, although he was not a student at Oakwood.

De Smith was found guilty of four indecent assaults and three counts of indecency with a child.

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The Court of Appeal has now said a judge reviewing Eric De Smith’s request for leave to appeal has denied his application.

Following the decision, which was taken on October 1, De Smith’s legal team have 28 days to decide whether to ask for a hearing before a full court to apply for permission to appeal for a second time.

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At De Smith’s sentencing Judge Rupert Overbury told him: “Your culpability is of the highest category. There is little mitigation on your behalf since you persist in protesting your innocence.”

Meanwhile a civil case involving 114 former Oakwood pupils who allege they were physically or sexually abused while at Oakwood is now able to proceed, according to their Cambridge-based solicitor Andrew Grove and Co.

Cambridge County Court has lifted the stay on compensation proceedings which was put in place while other matters relating to teachers and care workers at Oakwood were heard at Ipswich Crown Court.

The school’s former Deputy Head, Roger West, pleaded guilty to one count of wilful assault and one count of wilful ill treatment, while Michael Watts, who was head of child care, admitted two charges of wilful ill-treatment.

They were both given 12-month conditional discharges.

Solicitor Kathy Yates, of Andrew Grove and Co, said: “There was consternation amongst some of our clients when Mr De Smith applied for leave to appeal against his conviction and considerable relief when leave was refused by the Court.

“The Oakwood School Group Litigation is not closed and anyone who was at the school and suffered any kind of abuse is urged to make themselves known to us as soon as possible.”

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