Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Ex-Stanbridge Earls pupil Gareth Stephenson given suspended sentence

A former pupil of a special-needs school has been given a suspended sentence after being convicted of sexual offences.

Gareth Stephenson, 25, of Reading, was found guilty of six counts following a trial at Portsmouth Crown Court.

He was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Offences included sexual assault on a male under 13. They took place when he was a pupil at Stanbridge Earls School, Hampshire, and in Aberystwyth.

Hayley Porter-Straw, of the Crown Prosecution, said: "This was a complex case where the defendant abused children over a period of eight years.

School closed

"Gareth Stephenson was himself a vulnerable adult who suffers from ADHD. It is disturbing that he started abusing children when he was a child aged 11."

She added: "When he was aged 15 he started abusing young fellow pupils, some of whom were two years younger than him."

When he was 18, Stephenson sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy when he went back to Wales.

He was given a 12-month supervision order and was ordered to do 175 hours of unpaid work.

During the trial he was found not guilty of a further three counts of sexual activity with a male child under 16.

Stephenson, of Anstey Road, Reading, was sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court.

Stanbridge Earls closed in 2014. The independent school, which once commanded fees of £40,000 a year, taught 191 boarding and day pupils with special needs, aged from 10 to 19.

He will be on the sexual offender register for 10 years and has received a sexual harm prevention order for five years.

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