Ex-school care worker jailed for 12 years

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David Hennessy, from Narborough, who has been jailed for 12 years

David Hennessy, 75, of Westfields, Narborough, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Wednesday, having previously been convicted of six charges of indecent assault.

He is one of three men who received prison sentences totalling 35 years for abusing boys at the former Swaylands School in Penshurst, Kent, between 1967 and 1993, when the school closed.

His co-defendants, 72-year-old Colwyn Baker, of Morningside, Edinburgh, and Nigel Putman, 61, of Slough, were sentenced to 20 and three years in prison, respectively.

Passing sentence, Judge Philip Statman said that, to outsiders, the residential school appeared to have excellent facilities.

But he added: “When the veneer was stripped away in this courtroom, what has been revealed is a wholly different picture.

“Namely, one of persistent sexual abuse perpetrated by those in a position of trust against young, vulnerable boys as they approached adolescence.”

The school initially taught boys with learning disabilities, but began to admit pupils with emotional problems in the late 1980s.

Hennessy worked at the school from March 1969. He resigned in April 1977 but was re-employed in April 1979.

Police have now revealed that he was given a three-year jail term in 1993 after being convicted of four counts of indecent assault and two other serious sexual offences against a boy, also relating to his time at the Swaylands School. Baker also received a three-year sentence for indecency offences in 1994.

Detectives also disclosed that more than 60 former pupils had come forward to make allegations against the men.

And Judge Statman praised what he described as the “policing of the highest standard” which helped bring the trio to justice, recommending that the officers involved should receive commendations for their work.

He also paid tribute to the victims’ “courage, dignity and restraint”.

Following the sentencing hearing, Det Supt Paul Fotheringham, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: ‘This sentencing brings to a close a comprehensive investigation that has lasted a number of years.

“I’m pleased with the sentences that have been passed, and it shows that, no matter how long the passage of time, if you are convicted of carrying out sexual offences, you will feel the full weight of the law.

“As residential child care officers Baker, Hennessy and Putman were supposed to look after the boys out of class. Instead they exploited the pupils in their care and committed horrible acts over a long period of time.”