Thanks to Sophie, spanking teacher eludes prison

From The Times of India, June 11, 2000

LONDON: A spanking headmaster, who fondled the buttocks of his young charges while administering traditional British discipline, has eluded prison on the basis of commendatory letters from his former pupils, including Sophie Countess of Wessex.

A judge on Thursday released Robin Peverett, 66, former headmaster of the elite Dulwich College preparatory school south of London, with an 18-month suspended sentence after he admitted stroking and smacking the bare bottoms of nine of his pupils, aged nine to 13.

Peverett was charged after one of his former pupils told her husband of her experiences while watching the wedding last year of the Countess, then Sophie Rhys-Jones, to Prince Edward.

The woman's husband persuaded her to go to the police, and other former pupils then came forward to give evidence against Peverett, who taught at the school from 1960 to 1990 and was headmaster for his last 20 years.

The incidents took place between 1969 and 1977, when Sophie Rhys-Jones was at the school, which charges fees of 7,000 pounds sterling ($11,000) a year. It was stressed she had nothing to do with the case.

Among the nine counts Peverett, who received the Order of the British empire in 1995, admitted spanking a boy for fluffing his lines in a school production of Twelfth Night and smacking a girl to ``help'' her learn Latin.

The prosecutor said Peverett had ordered the original plaintiff into his study, put her over his knee, pulled up her skirt and removed her knickers before smacking and rubbing her buttocks.

Interviewed by police after his arrest in September Peverett admitted indulging in ``expressions of power'' and conceded that he had been ``extremely arrogant.'' A detective said after the trial: ``We'll never know how many were involved. It could be hundreds or even a thousand or more.''

Passing sentence, judge David Griffiths said he had taken hundreds of glowing testimonies, including one from Sophie, into account. Normally such offences should carry a custodial sentence, Griffiths said. In a bizarre sideshow to the trial, Peverett's barrister defended his client's behaviour, the Daily Mirror reported.

``What's a little buttock fondling after all? It was all such a long time ago,'' barrister Geoffrey Cox said. ``This sort of thing happened all the time in my school. It was a different era when headmasters considered themselves Gods, like barristers,'' he added, dismissing the reporter who posed the questions as someone who ``went to a little comp (comprehensive state school) somewhere.''(DPA)

See This ex-head teacher abused these women when they were his pupils. So why didn't he go to prison?, By Sally Weale, The Guardian, June 22, 2000

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