July 2022

Halstead former teacher and Ongar councillor jailed for child sex abuse

A former headmaster and parish councillor who “drove an express train through his victim’s childhood” has been locked up after sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.

Keith Tait, 77, a former headteacher at an Essex school, hid behind his standing in society as he repeatedly abused a child.

Following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, he was convicted of five counts of indecent assault.

Tait, of North Mill Place, Halstead, represented the Shelley ward on Ongar Town Council for 36 years from 1977 until 2013 

The abuse was carried out against the schoolboy in the 1980s.

At the same court, Judge Timothy Walker said the victim had been hitchhiking when he was picked up by a passing Tait.

“Your grooming of him began,” he said.

“His mother expressed concern about the disparity in age between you and him, but was reassured when she discerned you were a teacher.”

The court was told Tait gave his victim driving lessons and took him to a caravan in Great Yarmouth, where further abuse was carried out.

Judge Walker said Tait warned the victim if he spoke out about the abuse, “he would be in trouble and would be disqualified from driving”.

In a written statement read to the court, Tait’s victim, from Colchester, said he had struggled with writing even the first paragraph and on one occasion was almost physically sick.

“He is an evil opportunist who was lucky to find me – a confused, uncertain, emotionally weakened boy,” he said.

The court heard Tait had “won over” the victim’s mother, damaging their relationship “for the rest of her life”.

He said Tait’s “silver tongue” had charmed her, adding: “My greatest regret, and it is one which has never left me, is my failure to bridge the chasm between us.”

The victim said he had felt “too guilty and disgusted” to speak out.

“I was a child and children don’t think as adults do,” he added.

He said Tait’s “ability to manipulate” may have been put to better use as a politician or negotiator, but instead he “used it to get what he wanted”.

“Unfortunately what he wanted was me,” he said.

“He drove an express train through my childhood.”

Judge Walker said Tait’s abuse had a lifelong impact on his victim, adding: “You abused your position within society to facilitate your offending.”

He sentenced Tait to six and a half years imprisonment.

He will remain on the sex offender register for life and is banned from working with children.