Febuary 2012

Abuser hid behind ‘veneer of charm’

A SCHOOL caretaker who masked a campaign of violent and bullying sexual abuse beneath a veneer of “charm, respectability and reliability” was yesterday jailed for ten years.

Norman Hand – branded a high risk to both women and girls – was also disqualified from working with children, put on the sex offenders’ register for life and banned from having unsupervised contact with under-18s.

The 59-year-old former steelworker worked at Wolsingham Comprehensive School, in Weardale, which has no links to any of his offences.

In an unusual move, a letter written by Hand was read out in which he described himself as “a disgrace to society” and begged forgiveness from his five victims.

He was a likeable neighbour and colleague to many when he lived in Hartlepool and Weardale, but hid sordid secrets which emerged in public for the first time yesterday.

Judge John Walford, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, was told Hand enjoyed frightening and intimidating his victims in a campaign which spanned three decades, telling them no one would believe them if they complained.

The court heard during one attack he held a blade to a victim’s throat, warning: “If you say anything, I’ll do what I want, then use the knife.”

Judge Walford told him: “It is clear that you have been able to present to the world an image of charm, respectability and reliability, but that was merely a veneer masking the dark side of your character.”

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said Hand’s victims have needed counselling, the education of some was affected and the abuse has impacted on their adult life and relationships.

Hand, a grandfather, lived in Hartlepool, as well as Wolsingham and Frosterley, both in Weardale. Most recently, he lived in Chaucer Drive, Crook.

He admitted nine charges of indecent assault and one of attempted indecent assault.

Caroline Goodwin, mitigating, said: “Custody for someone his age is going to be difficult.

He has demonstrated by letter that he is contrite, that he is deeply shameful of what he has done.”

Jailing him for ten years, Judge Walford told him: “You are assessed as posing a high risk of harm to both female adults and female children.

“You would have me believe that you have changed, but the fact that as recently as 21 months ago you were entering into a relationship with a woman who happened to have an adolescent daughter, and unabashed by your arrest and regular interviews with the police, you maintained that relationship, makes me wonder how deep such change has been.”