Roland Peter Wright 5 August 2014 Court of Appeal

Roland Peter Wright, serial child abuser and ex headmaster of Caldicott School, appealed against sentencing and conviction but both were dismissed.

Hugh Edward Henry, co defendant, pleaded guilty but he killed himself before sentencing and did not feature in this appeal, execpt by a mention. It is not known whether Henry was actually sentenced.


Some reports have had victims names redacted and some assault details redacted.

This is a difficult balance – normally I would think that  I should not “censor” details but on consultation with various people I have taken the decision to redact. This is mainly to protect victims, their friends and relatives from unnecessary detail and to stop the gratification of those who seek salacious details.

In addition to the obvious “victims redaction” to protect victims details, there may also be “assault redaction” across most of the spectrum of abuse. The assaults often are left in the charges, but mainly redacted when repeated with reference to the individual. I have also redacted unnecessary detail of assaults.

Redaction may obscure sometimes the legal reasons behind the appeal, but should make no large difference to the vital information for researchers that these documents contain. That vital information is mainly names of the perpetrators, past addresses, institutions where assaults occurred, the actual charges the perpetrators faced, and dates – on which newspapers are pathetically inaccurate and this information enables the links between people and places and abuse at various times to be ascertained.

Some transcripts may have been subject to automatic reading software and whilst effort has been made to correct these, the text should not be regarded as definitive.

If you think that the balance is not correct or that a particular redaction needs reconsideration, please say.

Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog [1]

Index of Court Appeals on this blog [2]


[2014] EWCA Crim 1790 No: 201400324 C4


Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Tuesday , 5 August 2014

Before Lady Justice Hallett DBE


Mr Justice Bean

Mr Justice Foskett

Computer Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of WordWave International Limited A Merrill Communications Company 165 Fleet Street London EC4A 2DY Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7404 1424 (Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

Ms J Bickerstaff QC and Ms T Shroff appeared on behalf of the Appellant

Mr J A Price QC appeared on behalf of the Crown

JUDGMENT  (As Approved)

1. Mr Justice Bean : From 1952 until 1993 Roland Peter Wright was employed at Caldicott Preparatory School. For the last 25 of these 41 years he was the headmaster. The boys at the school were from 6 to 13 years old. In 2001 it was alleged that he had been abusing a number of boys in the period 1964 to 1970. Following a 2-year police investigation he was charged with offences against five boys. When the case reached the Crown Court he applied to stay the indictment which contained 13 counts of indecent assault and three of gross indecency with a child on the grounds of abuse of process.

2. By a ruling given on 26 September 2003, His Honour Judge Connor granted the application. The principal grounds on which he did so were that the complainants had waited more than 30 years, in one case 38 years, before making the complaints; that in the one case where two witnesses gave evidence of the same incident, there were substantial differences between the two accounts; that the police investigation had taken “an unconscionable amount of time”; that evidence might now be unavailable; that the defendant’s own capacity to remember detail and therefore give convincing evidence was said to be diminished by his advancing age (he was then 73) and his deteriorating health; and that there was some contamination of the evidence deriving from the fact that some of the complainants had discussed their allegations against the defendants with one another. He concluded that the defendant could not have a fair trial. It should be noted that at that time the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 enabling the prosecution to seek leave to appeal against a terminatory ruling of this kind had not yet come into force.

3. Following the imposition of the stay further complainants came forward one by one. In 2008 a documentary drama called Chosen appeared on Channel 4 television [future post]. It concerned alleged abuse by the defendant at the school. The Crown Prosecution Service decided on a number of occasions that there should be no further charges.

4. In 2010 there was a review of the case by the prosecution and the advice of the principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions was sought. On 5 December 2011 the defendant was charged with offences against a further seven complainants. The defence applied to stay the new proceedings as an abuse of process. The prosecution applied for an order, in the event that the abuse application failed, for the stay imposed by Judge Connor to be lifted and the older allegations to be joined to the indictment containing the fresh ones; alternatively. for the stayed allegations to be admitted as bad character evidence in the trial pursuant to section 101(1)(d) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

5. In a careful and detailed ruling Her Honour Judge Cutts QC rejected the defence application for a stay, also rejected the prosecution application for the stay imposed by Judge Connor to be lifted but granted the prosecution application to be permitted to adduce the allegations which were the subject of the 2003 stay as bad character evidence at the new trial.

6. That trial proceeded before Judge Cutts and a jury in 2012. A co-defendant, Hugh Edward Henry, pleaded guilty to 13 counts on the indictment. He committed suicide prior to sentence. In Mr Wright‘s case, where the trial took place in May and June 2013, the defendant was acquitted on three counts but the jury disagreed on the 12 remaining counts involving five complainants. The retrial of those charges was due to take place before Judge Cutts in November 2013. On 31 October 2013 both sides sought to renew the applications they had made 12 months earlier. The judge observed:

“I accept that I have the power to hear such applications at this time. Indeed it is incumbent upon me in every case but especially in a case with allegations as old as these to keep the fairness and propriety of the proceedings under constant review. Counsel have confined their submissions to changes that each alleges have occurred since the last trial. I confine my ruling in the same way.”

7. Once again the judge refused the defence application for a stay and the prosecution’s cross application to lift the 2003 stay. On the issue of calling the five complainants whose allegations formed the subject matter of the charges stayed in 2003 to give bad character evidence, it appears that no new argument was put forward and the judge adhered to her previous ruling.

The evidence at the trial was succinctly summarised by the judge in her sentencing remarks as follows. The defendant was a comparatively young man in his 30s when these offences took place. He taught French and also coached sport, predominantly rugby. It is clear that he was looked up to and admired by the boys and was an inspirational teacher, both of French and of rugby. But regrettably that was not the whole story. There was a darker side to his tuition of these boys. He fostered an environment whereby those good at sport were the elite in the school. From those he picked out boys for his individual sexual attentions. They were invited to the defendant’s room, often with others, to watch television (one of only two in the school at that time). Witnesses described this as almost a touch of home in an otherwise austere environment; some were invited to go on holiday with him, which he paid for. But for such attention there was a price. When he exacted that price, which was a sexual price, boys did as they were told. Some felt confused, some felt flattered by the attention, many felt it was just what happened to get Mr Wright‘s attention. The boys he chose were aged primarily 11, 12 or 13 years.

9. The first two counts alleged that between 1959 and 1960 the defendant went into the senior boys’ dormitory as the boys were getting ready for bed. On several occasions he asked the boy named in those counts, then in his last year at school, so aged 12 or 13, to come to his room. When the boy did so some 5 or 10 minutes later he was able to watch television there, which he considered a great privilege. But somewhere between three and six times the defendant [assault redacted].

10. Counts 3 to 7 all concerned another boy. He was one of the sporting elite who was invited into the defendant’s room to watch television. He was given whisky on some of these occasions. Long after he was asleep in his dormitory in his penultimate year the defendant would come and wake him, telling the boy to come to his (the defendant’s) room. When he did so various sexual activities took place. The defendant caused the boy to [Assault redacted]. The defendant would also lie [Assault redacted] . This conduct happened on numerous occasions and at least once with another boy in the bed.

11. As to count 8, the boy concerned, another of the sporting elite, then aged 12 or 13, would be told to come to the defendant’s room in the mornings while the defendant was still in bed. He stood by the defendant’s bed and on at least 10 occasions the defendant [Assault redacted].

12. The boy involved in counts 9 to 11, another of the sporting elite, aged 12 or 13, was invited to go on a fishing holiday with the defendant. Under the guise of speaking about the next day’s itinerary the defendant invited him into his room and [Assault redacted]. Thereafter, once back at the school, the boy would be asked once a week or so to take the defendant tea in bed. The defendant [Assault redacted]. On another occasion at the defendant’s cottage he was in bed with this boy and another. The defendant caused the boy [Assault redacted]. On another occasions he abused this boy at the cottage.

13. Count 12 involved very similar activities with another 12 or 13 year old boy among the sporting elite.

14. The trial lasted some 7 weeks. Ms Bickerstaff QC, for the defendant, has told us that of 25 prosecution witnesses, 15 were giving evidence of bad character.

15. Mr Wright was convicted on all 12 counts on the indictment. He was sentenced on 6 February 2014 to concurrent sentences, the longest of which was 8 years’ imprisonment. He appeals against those sentences by leave of the single judge. We shall come to the question of sentence later. However, the single judge refused leave to appeal against conviction. He wrote:

“The evidence of the five earlier complainants was clearly admissible even though the charges relating to them had been stayed on the issue of whether you had committed the offences now charged or whether your only association with the complainants concerned was innocent. The judge, of course, retained a discretion to exclude the evidence under section 101(3) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 but as to that she took into account all the relevant considerations in paragraph 7 on page 15 of her careful ruling on 22 October 2012 and it is not properly arguable that she came to the wrong conclusion.”

16. The grounds put forward by Ms Bickerstaff on the renewed application relating to the conviction is that the trial judge was wrong to admit the evidence of bad character.

17. In the case of  Smith  (reported under the name of another appeal with which it was heard:  R v Edwards & Rowlands  [2006] 2 Cr App R 4 at page 62) the police arrested the appellant in March 1998 in connection with complaints by [A] of rape and indecent assault, and by [B] of gross indecency with a child. In June of the same year the Hampshire Constabulary wrote to the appellant to tell him no further action would be taken against him in relation to those offences. Fresh allegations were made about 5 years later against the appellant by A of rape and by [D] of gross indecency with a child, and in 2005 he was tried on an indictment containing nine counts of sexual offences including the three for which he had been arrested in 1998. At the trial the judge granted an application by the defence that proceedings on those three counts should be stayed as an abuse of process in view of the terms of the letter from the Hampshire Police. The Crown applied to adduce the evidence of A and B which would have supported the stayed counts and some further allegations made by A about a series of indecent assaults which occurred when she was aged between 5 and 9. The judge rejected the submission that the evidence was admissible through Gateway C of section 101(1) of the 2003 Act as important explanatory evidence but acceded to the submission that it was evidence capable of establishing a propensity on the part of the appellant to commit the offences charged within the meaning of section 103(1), and that the evidence was admissible through Gateway D of section 101(1).

18. Mr Smith was convicted of five counts of gross indecency with a child, namely D, but acquitted of the remaining count of rape against A. He appealed against conviction on the ground that the admission of the evidence of the allegation supporting the stayed counts was unfair because he was, in effect, being tried on the charges that had been stayed. It was contended that an allegation which was untested by judicial or quasi-judicial finding was not evidence of a defendant’s bad character within the opening words of section 101 of the Act.

19. This court, dismissing the appeal, held that prima facie all evidence that was relevant to the question whether the accused was guilty or innocent of the offence charged was admissible and if evidence of previous allegations was in principle admissible, notwithstanding that a defendant had been acquitted of charges based of those allegations in a previous trial, there was no reason in principle why evidence relating to allegations that had never been tried because of a stay of proceedings for abuse of process should not be admissible. The appellant had not effectively been tried on the charges that were stayed because the jury had been required to return a verdict in relation to those charges. Although there might be doubt as to whether the making of an allegation was capable of being evidence of a non-defendant’s bad character since, if the allegation were to be admitted, there would have to be an investigation of relevant matters, those considerations did not apply to evidence of a defendant’s bad character since the relevance or probative value of such evidence depended on the assumption that it was true. Whether or not the allegations were true was a matter for the jury. Accordingly, the judge was correct to exercise his discretion as he did.

20. Ms Bickerstaff seeks to distinguish this case on the grounds that the stay was granted on the basis of a promise by the police not to prosecute, making it unfair to try the defendant, whereas in the present case Judge Connor’s ruling had been because in his opinion the defendant could no longer have a fair trial.

21. We do not accept that the ratio of  Smith  is so limited. This court held that there was no reason in principle why evidence which had never been placed before a jury before because of a stay for abuse of process should not be admissible. That applies equally to both types of stay.

22. In the present proceedings Judge Cutts, in her careful and impeccably reasoned ruling in 2012, to which she adhered in 2013, ruled that the evidence was plainly admissible as relevant to an important matter in issue in between the defendant and the prosecution, namely whether he sexually abused the schoolboys in his care. As to whether it would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the trial that she should not admit it in evidence, she held that it would not.

23. She noted that in contrast to the case of  R v O’Dowd  [2009] Cr App R 16 , a rape trial in which previous unconnected allegations were permitted to be adduced on the grounds of propensity, this evidence contained allegations of sexual misconduct in the same time period, at the same school and in similar circumstances as the indicted charges. It was not evidence of propensity but similar evidence negating the defence of innocent association. She held that any issue of contamination could be dealt with during the trial.

24. As to a defence argument that it would be unfair to admit the bad character evidence because some of the stayed chargers were more serious in nature than the indicted ones, she held that the difference in seriousness was not so great that it would be unfair to the defendant to admit the bad character evidence.

25. We agree entirely with Judge Cutts’ rulings, both for the reasons she gave and also because we consider that the decision of this court in  Smith  , which is binding on us as it was on her, is effectively indistinguishable. The renewed application for leave to appeal against conviction is refused.

26. We turn to the appeal against sentence, which is brought on the grounds of the defendant’s age (he is now 84) and his state of health. Mr Wright has a long standing back problem which despite surgery causes him constant pain. He is unable to walk without sticks and his mobility is restricted. He has difficulty with stairs. He cannot dress himself without assistance. He is hard of hearing. We accept that prison life will bear harder on him than it would on an inmate in better health.

27. Save to the extent that old age and poor health are to be taken account, the delay in historic abuse cases in bringing the offender to justice is not generally a factor which mitigates the sentence he must receive. This is because, while the abuser maintains a facade of respectability, the victims continue to suffer. Lord Woolf, Chief Justice, giving the judgment of this court in  R v Milberry  [2003] 1 Cr App R 25 said:

“The fact that the offences are stale can be taken into account but only to a limited extent. It is after all always open to an offender to admit the offences and the fact that they are not reported earlier is often explained because of the relationship between the offender and the victim which is an aggravating factor of the offence. A different factor that could cause the court to take a more lenient view than it would otherwise is the consequences which results from the age of the offender. … the court is always entitled to show a limited degree of mercy to an offender who is of advanced years, because the impact that a sentence of imprisonment can have on an offender of that age.”

28. In the subsequent case of Attorney General’s Reference Nos 37 and others of 2003, reported at  [2004] 1 Cr App R(S) 84 , this court said, referring to the observations of Lord Woolf in  Milberry  :

“It is important to emphasise the word ‘limited’ used by the Lord Chief Justice in the last sentence, and sentencers should be careful not to make too great an allowance in this regard thereby shrinking from what is their duty, however unpleasant it may be to perform.”

29. Reverting to the facts of the present case, Judge Cutts said this:

“For many years those you abused kept their silence. No doubt you believed and hoped that they always would. During your trial I heard the reasons for that:

a. Boys felt they could never tell parents who had thought they were doing right by their sons in sending them to the school, many of such parents admired you;

b. Some felt a sense of guilt as they looked back at their young selves and in some way felt complicit in what had happened;

c. Some felt fear and embarrassment of what would happen if they spoke about it.

It is sadly all too frequent that those who are abused in childhood consider in adulthood that because they failed to say something and did as they were told they are in some way responsible for what happened. I wish to make it absolutely clear that no man should feel guilt or consider he was complicit in any way. All were children in the care of an adult who had little but his own sexual gratification in mind.”

30. The judge said that she took into account the positive aspects of the defendant’s life and of his work as a teacher and a headmaster but she added:

“The aggravating features of these offences are significant. With all boys this was prolonged activity, the boys were groomed by a master at a school responsible for their care. Some boys were awoken at night and told to come from their beds to your room. You caused many of them to ejaculate and to masturbate you to ejaculation. You were offending between 1959 and 1970. It is difficult to think of a more serious breach of trust.”

31. We agree with all these observations of the learned judge. She had sat through a lengthy trial and was well placed to assess the seriousness of what the defendant had done. If the defendant had been younger and in better health a significantly longer total sentence than 8 years would have been justified. In our view, the judge’s figure of 8 years made proper allowance for the defendant’s age and the state of his health.

32. In those circumstances the appeal against sentence must be dismissed.

Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog [1]

Index of Court Appeals on this blog [2]

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.

  • The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
  • Other useful sites are One in Four [C]
  • and Havoca [D].
  • Useful post on Triggers [E]  from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.
  • Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G]  and Meditation [H] may be useful.
  • Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma  [J]
  • Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
  • Voicing CSA group [L] helps arrange survivors meetings in your area


[1] Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog

[2] Index of Court Appeals EWCA on this blog

About cathy fox blog on Child Abuse

the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
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5 Responses to Roland Peter Wright 5 August 2014 Court of Appeal

  1. Pingback: An Index and Timeline of Court & Court of Appeal Documents on Cathy Fox Blog | cathy fox blog

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