Eight ex-teachers in court accused of child abuse at boarding school


Eight former teachers have appeared in court accused of child cruelty and sexual abuse at a boarding school over two decades ago.

The defendants – five men and three women – were charged in connection with the alleged sexual abuse scandal at Rhydd Court School, in Worcestershire, which happened between the late 1970s and early 1990s.

On Tuesday, the accused, aged between 51 and 82, appeared before Worcester Magistrates Court.

They are charged with conspiracy to commit child cruelty – to assault, ill-treat, neglect or abandon a child to cause unnecessary suffering or injury – between 1979 and 1991.

The individuals also face separate charges ranging from indecent assault, conspiring to commit sexual offences and gross indecency.

During the short hearing in court, where half appeared via videolink and half in person, the defendants spoke only to confirm their dates of birth and addresses. No pleas were entered or indicated.

Anita Gunning, 59, of Plymouth, is charged with conspiring to indecently assault a boy under 14 and indecently assaulting the same boy in a tent between 1987 and 1991.

She is also accused of indecently assaulting a second boy under 14 between January and October 1990.

Cynthia Moore, 81, of Bude, Cornwall, is charged with conspiring to commit a sexual offence with a boy under the age of 16 between January 1990 and July 1991.

She also faces charges of conspiring to indecently assault a boy under 16 and child cruelty between 1987 and 1991.

Marie Handy, 51, of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, is accused of indecently assaulting a boy under 14 between September 1987 and July 1991.

Michael Connor, 69, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is charged with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm between 1987 and 1991.

He also faces one count of indecent assault and conspiring to commit a sexual offence and conspiring to commit indecent assault.

Terence Heath, 74, of Hanley Castle, Worcestershire, is accused of two counts of conspiring to commit a sexual offence and two indecent assaults between 1987 and 1990.

John Dixon, 82, of Skegness, Lincolnshire, is accused of conspiracy to commit child cruelty, two charges of conspiring to commit a sexual offence, four sexual offences and six indecent assaults.

These offences cover a period between 1989 and 1991 and are said by the prosecution to involve both adults and boys under 16.

David Sykes, 76, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, is accused of wounding/inflicting grievous bodily harm in an alleged assault said to have involved a perforated eardrum.

He is also accused of indecently assaulting a boy under 16 between June 1987 and February 1990.

Charmaine James, 62, of Buckie, Scotland, is charged with gross indecency with a boy under 14 and two indecent assaults on a boy aged under 16 and a man aged over 16.

The charges follow an investigation by West Mercia Police into allegations at a time when the premises was owned by the local authority.

Vincent Scully, prosecuting, said: “I ask all these cases are sent forthwith to the crown court,” following the Magistrates Court declining jurisdiction for the case.

Unconditional bail was granted to all eight defendants until the next hearing at Worcester Crown Court on August 31.