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Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Sex offender walks free

A former PE teacher who abused pupils at a boarding school for boys with behavioural problems in the 1970s has walked free from Bristol Crown Court after admitting 12 charges of indecent assault.

The court heard that 50-year-old Keith Figes abused seven boys aged between 10 and 14 at Badgeworth Court School, near Cheltenham, between September 1973 and December 1974.

Figes, of Zeal's Rise, Warminster, Wiltshire, was given an 18-month sentence suspended for two years after the court heard he was a reformed character since serving time in prison.

As long as you behave yourself you will hear no more about it

Judge Peter Thomas

Several of Figes' victims who were in the court cried out as the sentence was passed - and many were visibly shaken as he walked free from court.

Roderick Denyer QC, prosecuting, told the court how Figes would lure boys from their dormitories and into his room at night, where he would indecently assault them.

Figes, who is now married and works as a driving instructor, was sentenced to three years in prison in the 1980s for similar offences.

'It's a joke'

Representing him, Wendy Joseph QC said more time had passed since the allegations than Figes had been alive when they occurred, and added that he was now a good husband to his wife, Helen.

This man feels hugely the burden of what he did

Wendy Joseph QC

She said: "The passage of time since 1973-1974 is not far short of 30 years. His behaviour in that time bears him some credit, perhaps more than anything else in his life."

Telling the court that Figes' time in prison had caused his character change, she added: "This man feels hugely the burden of what he did and the burden that he has brought to those he cares for."

Victims of Figes, who had watched proceedings from the public gallery, cried in disbelief when they heard the sentence.

Trust betrayed

One said: "I wish I hadn't bothered speaking out about it."

"It's a joke," said another.

Sentencing Figes, Judge Peter Thomas said: "You indecently assaulted seven boys who were residents at that school.

"You betrayed their trust, and that trust which society placed on you. They were in your care.

"You have lived almost 20 years of a blameless life. As long as you behave yourself you will hear no more about it."

The detective who led the investigation said he was disappointed with the sentence and said he felt sorry for the now middle-aged men who had suffered "abhorrent offences" at the paedophile's hands.

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