LEADERS of a church have spoken of their “deep regret” over how allegations against a paedophile teacher were not investigated at the time.
Terminally ill Ronald Wotton, 73, from Park Lane in Murton, was jailed yesterday at Teesside Crown Court for five years after admitting 17 counts of indecent assault, three of indecency with a male and one of indecency with a child.
The charges date back to a 12-year period from the 1960s, as reported on sunderlandecho.com yesterday.
He was also given an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order and banned from having contact with children without the authority of social services.
The attacks on boys and girls took place at a Roman Catholic school in County Durham, with Wotton allowed to retire when a new head could not ignore the mounting allegations against him.
Children and their parents had reported claims to the school, with one youngster made to apologise to him when they were not believed, while nothing was done when Wotton was confronted by parents.
Older children would pass washing up liquid to pupils so they could make themselves ill after being warned about him. Children also played truant to avoid him.
Paul Young, safeguarding co-ordinator for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle’s safeguarding department, said: “It is a source of deep regret whenever a position of great trust leads to behaviour which harms children or any vulnerable person in our communities.
“We express our sorrow to those who in the past have suffered abuse, felt ignored, disbelieved or betrayed. “We recognise the failings of some in the past in handling these matters.
“Whilst the allegations involving Ronald Wotton took place at a voluntary aided school and were therefore outside the direct control of the Diocese, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has worked hard and consistently to develop policies nationally to address situations of this nature. “There have been significant improvements in the way we respond to and approach cases such as these.
“I would like to give an assurance that nowadays the protection of children is paramount. We create safe environments where children feel able to and are likely to speak about their concerns.
“We listen to children and believe them.
“Any matters which are reported now within a church setting are immediately referred to the statutory authorities.
“As we did in this case, we work very closely with the police and children’s social services.
“We fully cooperate in bringing perpetrators to account and in seeking justice for victims; their healing is of the utmost importance to the church.”