Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 15:44 UK

Jail for Jersey home sex attacker

Gordon Wateridge
Gordon Wateridge worked at the home between 1970 and 1974

A former worker at a Jersey children's home has been jailed for two years after being convicted of sex attacks on teenage girls in the 1970s.

Gordon Wateridge who worked at the Haut de la Garenne home, had earlier been found guilty of eight counts of indecent assault against three girls.

The 78-year-old, who lives in the parish of St Clement, was sentenced at Jersey Royal Court.

He was also found guilty of assaulting a teenage boy.

He was jailed for 21 months for each of the eight indecent assault charges, to run concurrently, and for three months, consecutively, for the assault on the boy.

Wateridge, who was born in Croydon, south London, was the first person charged in connection with an inquiry into historical abuse at the site, where he worked as a house parent.

The court heard how children sent to Haut de la Garenne were vulnerable and suffered from a variety of problems.

The trial had heard Wateridge would grope girls' breasts, hug the teenagers inappropriately and kiss them on the neck.

Appeal planned

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Pitchers said: "What he did was rightly described in the trial as sexual bullying."

He said the acts carried out by Wateridge against the girls were at the "lower end" of the sentencing guidelines.

But he added: "There is no such thing as a trivial indecent assault of child.

"They were vulnerable because they were children and because they were placed in the home without the support of a loving family.

"They were entitled to expect care, love and kindness but in fact they received sexual bullying and unkindness."

They were entitled to expect care, love and kindness but in fact they received sexual bullying and unkindness
Judge Christopher Pitchers

Crown Advocate Stephen Baker, for the prosecution, described Wateridge's behaviour as "the most flagrant breach of trust".

He said: "The offences took place in a closed institution within which the accused enjoyed a position of some authority.

"The offences were committed against victims known by the accused to be more than usually vulnerable and sometimes took place in the presence of other children so as to cause particular humiliation."

Advocate Michael Preston, defending, told the court that Wateridge continued to deny his guilt and was planning to appeal against the conviction.

One witness who testified at the trial was sent to Haut de la Garenne after running away from home.

She told the court she was left feeling "dirty" after being repeatedly groped by Wateridge.

"He would do things like smacking your bottom, grabbing you and giving you bear hugs," she said.

"When he grabbed you from behind, he would more often than not touch your breasts in some way."

'Misleading' inquiry

James Campbell is chairman of the Jersey Care Leavers' Association (JCLA), set up in the wake of the Haut de la Garenne police inquiry, which campaigns for an independent inquiry led by professional social workers.

He said Wateridge's conviction would do little to reassure the JCLA's members.

"There has been a lack of convictions over the years," he pointed out.

"Wateridge has been convicted but there remains people living and working in Jersey who should be charged with child abuse offences."

The Jersey government said an inquiry had been ordered but would not take place until after the completion of the police investigation, Operation Rectangle.

A police spokeswoman said Rectangle was continuing, with at least one further prosecution pending.

Wateridge was arrested early last year. He worked at the home between 1970 and 1974 and lived in a flat on the premises with his wife and two children.

There had earlier been suggestions of murders taking place at the home in Jersey, and following extensive searches police initially claimed to have found traces of blood, a fragment of a child's skull and secret underground "dungeons".

But in November 2008, these claims were discredited. Senior officers admitted there was no evidence of any murders and said "misleading" information had been wrongly made public.

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