Stowmarket Oakwood School trial: Two former teachers admit abuse

image captionMichael Watts (left) and Gerald West each admitted two of the child cruelty charges against them

Two former teachers accused of child cruelty at a state boarding school have changed some of their pleas to guilty halfway through a trial.

Four men were facing a total of 24 abuse charges relating to Oakwood School in Stowmarket, Suffolk between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s.

Two have now admitted two charges each, while the rest of the charges have been dropped against them and the other pair at Ipswich Crown Court.

Sentencing will take place on Friday.

The trial opened on 14 April, with the prosecution claiming that an "abusive regime" existed at the school, which closed in 2000.

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image captionOakwood is now a pupil referral unit on Chilton Way in Stowmarket

Oakwood was run by Suffolk County Council for boys aged between eight and 16 with educational or behavioural problems.

Charges dropped

Gerald West, 71, of Martins Meadow, Gislingham, Suffolk, had denied 10 child cruelty charges but has now admitted two of them.

The prosecution offered no further evidence on the other eight and the jury was directed to return not guilty verdicts on those charges.

Michael Watts, 59, of Sellwood Road, Netley Abbey, Southampton denied seven charges but has now admitted two of them.

The remaining five charges against him were dropped.

The prosecution offered no further evidence and the jury was directed to return not guilty verdicts on the other two teachers.

Stephen Player, 61, of Manor Road, Spratton, Northamptonshire, had denied six charges, while Graham Hallett, 66, of Aldcliffe Road, Lancaster, had denied one charge.

At an earlier separate trial, the former head teacher of Oakwood, Eric de Smith, was found guilty of seven charges of sexual assault or indecency.

The jury was unable to agree on an eighth charge, which the prosecution agreed not to proceed with.

De Smith, 76, of Danes Close, Stowmarket, will also be sentenced on Friday at a separate hearing.

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