September 2007

Former school head spared jail for sex acts in front of children


A FORMER school head who committed sex acts in front of boys on orienteering trips more than a quarter of a century ago has escaped being jailed.

Patrick Nethercot, 61, of Larches Road, Western Hill, Durham City, head of Gilesgate Junior School from 1984 to 1993, admitted seven offences of indecency involving four boys under 16.

Durham Crown Court heard they occurred between 1978 and 1980 when Nethercot, who has no previous convictions, was a teacher at a Wearside school.

After hearing how Nethercot himself was the victim of a serious offence when he was 17, the court gave him a three-year community order with supervision.

The court was told the offences did not involve Nethercot touching, or being touched by, the youngsters, who were aged as young as nine.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said Nethercot organised orienteering trips to Hamsterley Forest in County Durham and the Lake District for small groups of boys.

The offences occurred in the dormitory in front of the group or when Nethercot was out walking with an individual boy.

He warned one boy if he reported what had happened he would not be believed.

The offences were eventually reported to police last year after one of the boys, now a father in his 30s, saw Nethercot collecting a grandchild in Chester-le-Street.

When he was arrested in November, Nethercot, who has been married for 37 years, denied being responsible for any inappropriate behaviour, but admitted the charges when he appeared in court on August 2.

Caroline Goodwin, in mitigation, said Nethercot had his family’s support and was getting help for his problems.

Judge Beatrice Bolton read a letter from Nethercot, pre-sentence and psychiatric reports and three references.

She said the maximum sentence for the offence was two years but there were mitigating factors including the impact of the offence he suffered as a teenager, which led to him having a breakdown in the 1990s.

Nethercot must attend a sex offender treatment programme, sign the sex offenders register for five years, not work with children and pay court costs.

Judge Bolton praised the victim who reported the offences to police.

Nethercot left Gilesgate Junior School in November 1993, days before a hearing was due to be held into his appeal against disciplinary action recommended by the school’s governors.

He had been suspended in July when an investigation was launched into allegations made by the parents of pupils.

He went on to run a computer and internet consultancy that designed websites for several organisations and businesses, Durham City’s Labour Party, the city’s former Labour MP Gerry Steinberg, and the Gateshead Senators American Football Club.

He was the chairman for several years of the Durham and Chester-le-Street branch of the Alzheimer’s Society and the patient forum for the County Durham and Darlington Priority Services NHS Trust, which used to run mental health services in the county.