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Sex assault head teacher jailed

3 July 09 12:28 GMT

A primary school head teacher convicted of nine counts of sexually assaulting children in his care has been jailed for two years at Swansea Crown Court.

David Thorley, 56, from Carmarthen, was convicted by a jury in May of nine charges and cleared of a further 10.

He was told he would serve half the sentence in custody and be released on licence. His family said they would prove his innocence on appeal.

The prosecution said he had an unhealthy interest in young girls.

During the trial it claimed he had used his position of trust at the school he ran in Pembrokeshire to assault them.

Judge Michael Burr said the jury had found that Thorley had been satisfying his own sexual desires when he applied medicinal cream to the bodies of young pupils.

He said even a single such case deserved a two year sentence, according to sentencing guidelines, and jailing Thorley for that period of time for nine offences was the minimum he could do.

Judge Burr said he had taken into account the dozens of letters written in support of Thorley.

During the trial one girl had described how he intimately touched her during a visit to the toilet when she had broken her collar bone and was taken to hospital.

The head teacher initially faced 19 charges but eight were withdrawn after Judge Burr said they lacked "evidence of quality" and the jury cleared him of two more.

The court heard he had intimately and inappropriately examined another small girl, and that he had inappropriately touched the children of family friends during a swimming trips.

He was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two.

His barrister, Marian Lewis, said the offences had been "opportunistic" and not premeditated, and should be viewed as being at the lowest end of the scale.

She described Thorley's conviction as "catastrophic" for both him and his family.

His career and reputation were in ruins, she added.

Union leaders who backed his case throughout the trial vowed to lodge an appeal on "multiple grounds" first thing on Monday.

Anne Hovey of the National Association of Headteachers' (NAHT) said that new advice would be issued to all senior teachers in time for the start of the September term.

"Incredibly vulnerable"

She said they would be warned of the dangers of exposing themselves to allegation and suspicion.

Although school children remained their number one priority, staff also had to consider themselves.

He has been supported by his wife Mary, a vicar and a head of a primary school in Carmarthenshire, and also by staff at his own school.

Mrs Thorley said afterwards she reaffirmed her "100% certainty" in her husband's innocence.

"It has caused us a great deal of grief and stress but however much longer it takes we will maintain and prove his innocence," she said outside the court.

"His family and his colleagues stick by him 100%. We will maintain his innocence through the Court of Appeal.

"I think it puts the whole teaching profession in jeopardy. All correct procedures were followed and other adults were there. Staff remain incredibly vulnerable."

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