Swindon headteacher who sexually abused pupils jailed for 11 years

A former Swindon headteacher has been jailed for more than a decade after he repeatedly sexually abused his pupils.

Creighton Muirhead, who was headteacher at Ruskin Junior School in Swindon between 1995 and 2008, sexually abused a total of 19 children in what was labelled as “a study in the failure of child protection” by the judge.

Amongst the years of abuse, he would watch children in the shower, force them to walk across the changing rooms wet and naked to get a towel, and call students to his desk where he would put his hand up their skirts and touch their bottoms.

He started his offending at the Weald school near Dorking, Surrey where he previously worked. After moving to Ruskin, he ran a gymnastics club, where he assaulted more children.

One victim explained how Muirhead would make the girls get changed on a stage, and he would stand and watch them.

Others described giving up sports and afterschool clubs, and that his abuse had caused them anxiety and depression.

While he was at Ruskin, there were two reports to Wiltshire Police, involvement with children’s services and even a complaint to the board of governors, but nothing came of it and Muirhead was allowed to continue teaching.

Sentencing, Judge Rufus Taylor said the evidence in the case was “overwhelming”. “19 victims, 23 counts, two schools, two different counties, separated by over a decade in time,” he continued.

“The only explanation is that you have a dual nature that you can control. I have no doubt you have an enduring sexual interest in children.

“A teacher or headmaster touching their pupils is the grossest breach of trust.”

Muirhead, who remained unmoved during the hour-long hearing as details of his offending was read aloud, was jailed for a total of 11 years, after he was unanimously convicted by a jury of 23 counts of indecent assault earlier this month following a 6-week trial.

The now 67-year-old’s sentence includes a three-year jail term and a further one-year licence for one of the counts, which came after he picked his victim up in a school corridor.

Guildford Crown Court heard on Wednesday afternoon from many of Muirhead’s victims, some of whom appeared in the public gallery and some of whom attended via video link.

One of those was a pupil he had abused at Ruskin School. She said teachers “should be your guidance and your example in life” and that a child’s “formative years are a time you should be free, safe and looked after”.

“At the Ruskin I often found myself on high-alert,” her victim impact statement, read by prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC, said.

“She speaks of the initial report to police and nothing coming of it, and how that added to the complex emotions she felt.

“There was a feeling of being let down, but also the fear of repercussions after that initial report.”

The victim added: “I don’t expect Mr Muirhead to feel remorse, a man pathetic and low enough to have to exercise his power against helpless children is not a man at all.”

Meanwhile, another of his victims added in a statement: “Whilst you and I know only too well that you are guilty, one day you might have the decency to admit it and show some remorse for your actions over all of these years.”

Another victim told the court from the witness box how her life was “consumed by painful memories” after receiving a surprise call from the police four years ago.

Ms Carberry said that whilst the maximum sentence for indecent assault had increased over the years, Judge Taylor would not be able to impose a sentence that exceeded that of the statutory maximum at the time on an individual count, ranging from five years for an indecent assault on a female before 1985 to ten years after that date.

Judge Taylor said it was “common knowledge” among some pupils that Muirhead would sexually assault girls, and cited one occasion where a group of boys in class laughed at a victim, saying “Mr Muirhead was now her boyfriend”.

He added that the assaults took place “in the classroom in plain sight”, were “practically identical” and he “indulged [his] sexual fascination by hanging around the showers to supervise”.

In total, Muirhead was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

He has been added to the sex offenders’ register indefinitely and will not be allowed to work with children for the rest of his life.