Teacher at old Oakwood School in Stowmarket allegedly bent pupils wrist backwards so it snapped, court hears

Ipswich Crown Court

Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Archant

Pupils were subjected to a “regime of abusive behaviour” spanning more than two decades, it has been alleged.

The old Oakwood School in Stowmarket.

The old Oakwood School in Stowmarket. - Credit: Archant

Pupils at Oakwood School, Stowmarket, who were described as “vulnerable” as they had been sent to the school because they had educational and behavioural problems, were allegedly 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 fractured skull after a teacher pushed his head against a wall.

Miss Carey said the boy allegedly recalled hospital staff being told he had tripped up and caused the injury himself.

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.

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Another boy claimed that while he was being hit by a teacher he picked up a chair as a shield and escaped by climbing out of an open window.

“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. She said the alleged victims had not felt able to complain at the time because they either thought it would make matters worse for them or that they wouldn’t be believed and letters written by pupils to their parents were censored by staff who ripped them up and told them to write them again if they complained about the way they were treated.

Miss Carey said that when the defendants were interviewed about the allegations they denied being physically violent to pupils and said the alleged victims could be motivated by the hope of compensation arising out of a civil action.

She said that in the 1970s and some of the 1980s schools were allowed to physically discipline children by using “reasonable chastisement” which would usually be a smack to the back of the hand, the back of the legs or bottom or the use of a slipper or cane.

She said the use of physical discipline was banned by Parliament in 1987.

Miss Carey described the alleged ill-treatment by the defendants as “wholly unwarranted, wholly unjustified and outside the boundaries of punishment”.

Before the court are Gerald West, known by his middle name Roger, 70, of Martins Meadow, Gislingham, who has denied 10 charges of cruelty to a child under the age of 16; Stephen Player, 59, of London, a senior master at Oakwood, who denied six offences of child cruelty; Michael Watts, 59, of Netley Abbey, Southampton, a child care officer at Oakwood, who pleaded not guilty to seven offences of cruelty to a child; and Graham Hallett, 66, of Aldcliffe Road, Lancaster, a senior master at Oakwood, who denied one charge of cruelty to a child.

The offences are said to have occurred between 1974 and 1999 and relate to 20 alleged victims.

Oakwood School opened in 1974 and shut in 2000.

The trial continues today.