Gislingham man accused of force-feeding pupils their own sick

Latest Crime and Court News from the Diss Express, dissexpress.co.uk, @diss_express on Twitter
Latest Crime and Court News from the Diss Express, dissexpress.co.uk, @diss_express on Twitter

A former deputy head from Gislingham has been accused of force feeding and beating pupils during a “regime of abusive behaviour”at a boarding school.

The second week of the trial of Gerald West, 70, of Martins Meadow, at Ipswich Crown Court has heard claims made by one of his former pupils.

West has pleaded not guilty to ten charges of cruelty to a person aged under 16 between 1994 and 1999.

Giving evidence, the man who is now aged 52, said because of the “terrible” regime at the now-closed Oakwood School in Stowmarket he had often run away.

Each time, however, he was picked up by the police and returned to the school where he was subjected to further beatings with a stick and a slipper, he claimed.

The man told the jury that disciplinary methods used by deputy head teacher West were “heavy handed”. The man said: “He would slap you and slap you and slap you”.

Further allegations made by the same man involved West allegedly force feeding him.

The man said: “Whatever they put on your plate you had to eat it - it didn’t matter if you didn’t like it.

“If you sicked it up they would hold you by the back of the neck and spoon it into your mouth.”

Another man who was a pupil at Oakwood at about the same time told the jury that after complaining he had been punched by a teacher he

was forced to strip to his underwear before being locked overnight in a storeroom by West.

The 51-year-old said that as the door was unlocked the following morning West had told him: “We almost forgot about you.”

In addition to West, three other men who were also teachers at Oakwood are on trial. Between them they have pleaded not guilty to a total of 24 charges of child cruelty involving 20 alleged victims.

The men are Stephen Player, 61, of Manor Road, Spratton, Northamptonshire; Michael Watts, 59, of Sellwood Road, Netley Abbey, Southampton, and Graham Hallett, 66, of Aldcliffe Road, Lancaster.

While being cross examined the man denied being motivated by money to make his allegations.

He said he had only contacted a firm of solicitors when he heard they were pursuing a civil claim for damages on behalf of a number of other former Oakwood pupils.

Oakwood School, which opened in 1974 and closed in 2000, catered for boys aged between eight and 16 who had educational and behavioural problems.

The trial continues.