A man who abused pupils as young as nine at a now-closed Suffolk school while working as a languages teacher has been jailed for 29 years.
Gerard Singer, 69, had denied a string of offences against victims aged nine to 13, but in July was unanimously found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court.
Jailing him, Judge Martyn Levett told Singer that he would have to serve at least 21 years behind bars.
Singer, who had worked at the former St George’s School at Great Finborough, was extradited back to the UK following his arrest at his home in Elnes, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.
Judge Martyn Levett told Singer that he was unable to detect ‘any repentance or atonement’ in the 35 years since the offences were committed.
He added: “The victims have waited a very long time for justice and I can only hope this will give them some form of closure.”
Before Singer was sentenced, the court heard from two of his victims about the impact the sexual abuse had on their lives.
One man said in a statement that Singer had ‘preyed upon’ him and destroyed his childhood.
The statement concluded: “In the 1980s, chances were missed to help us. We were failed. I want the system to learn from those mistakes.”
A second victim said in a statement read to the court that he had tried to ‘bury the past’ after being abused by Singer.
The man said he had considered taking his own life and turned to drink and drugs before suffering a breakdown.
Judge Levett, who presided over Singer’s trial in July, said a probation report showed Singer was still in denial about his offending and concluded he was unlikely to change and posed a high risk to potential future victims.
That was disputed by defence barrister Richard Keogh who said Singer would be an old man upon his release from prison and would not be likely to pose a high risk.
The court heard claims Singer had fled to his native France from St George’s School in the middle of the night in November 1981 following a warning from headmaster Derek Slade that his activities were about to be exposed.
Slade, who died in prison last year, was convicted of sexual and physical abuse of pupils.
Former pupils described their treatment at Singer’s hands and how the school had been subjected to a ‘reign of terror’ led by Slade who had meted out severe beatings to boys as well as sexually abusing them.
Singer was found guilty of 15 charges of indecent assault, nine charges of indecency with a child, one charge of assault with intent to commit a serious sexual offence and three charges of committing the same serious sexual offence.
The court heard charges related to nine former pupils between 1979 and 1982. In evidence, Singer claimed he had left to avoid the wrath of Slade after confronting him about beatings.
Singer said he had never done anything inappropriate with pupils and that all the former pupils who gave evidence against him were lying.
The court heard Singer had been convicted in France of sexually touching three boys aged under 15. He said he had not appealed against that conviction to avoid causing any further distress.
Singer was ordered to sign the sexual offences register indefinitely.
Suffolk Police began an investigation in 2009 when a number of ex-pupils made allegations about abuse which had taken place during their time at St George’s School.
Detective Constable, Karen Crowther said “This trial has brought to a close one of the longest child sex abuse investigations carried out by Suffolk Police.
“I would personally like to thank all those that gave evidence in this matter for their patience and the trust they put in us.
“They should feel very proud that they have helped to bring to justice a man who has been a sexual predator and a risk to young boys for more than three decades.”
A victim said: “I was 11 when I first arrived at St Georges. The school failed on every level to educate, care, nurture and more importantly to keep me safe.
“The regime was intimidating, frightening and cruel. This made me particularly vulnerable to any act of kindness shown to me by an adult. Gerard Singer took advantage of this and systematically showered me with gifts, and kindness in order to win my trust. Today it is called grooming.”
He said he blamed his parents for years for sending him to the school and added: “I have repaired the relationship with my mother but unfortunately my Dad passed away before I was able to do the same with him.”
Another victims said: “Teachers including Mr Singer tainted my childhood which has affected my life over the past 35 years.
“Mr Singer’s selfish and self-indulgent actions have made me question everything in the years since he abused my trust.
“Only now after 35 years since this abuse happened to me do I feel the weight lifted from my shoulders and able to move on with my life without having to look over my shoulder or be judged over something that was out of my control.”
Andrew Lord from the abuse team at law firm Leigh Day, who is representing the latter victim in a civil claim against the school, said after sentencing:“It seems clear that there were systemic failures which permitted the prolific abuse of children by multiple former staff members at St George’s school.
“The convictions against Singer and Slade provide a very clear example of why mandatory reporting by schools and other institutions is necessary to ensure perpetrators don’t evade justice by moving between schools in this country and abroad.
“Our client still has unanswered questions surrounding who knew what about the abuse and why more wasn’t done to ensure the welfare of the pupils.”