“A retired Croydon head teacher who received an MBE from the Queen has avoided jail for sexually assaulting a teenage boy in the 1970s.
Disgraced John Coatman, of Leyburn Gardens, admitted abusing his position of trust after he targeted a “vulnerable” boy.
The 76-year-old spoke only to confirm his name at his sentencing at the Old Bailey today (Friday, January 12), having previously pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault in December 2017.
Coatman, a former head teacher at St Andrew’s Church of England High School, in Warrington Road, preyed on a 14-year-old boy at a Christian youth group he ran and later invited him to his home.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, did not attend Coatman’s school, but was “vulnerable”, having being bullied and sought solace from Coatman, the court heard.
Coatman invited the youth over to his home where the court heard the two would engage in “rough and tumble play-fighting”, before he began to ask him indecent questions about his sexuality.
Claims against Coatman had surfaced in 2014 after the breakdown of the victim’s marriage and problems at work.
Mark Trafford QC, prosecuting, said: “The defendant described some rough and tumble between the two.
“It’s not, of course, seen that the rough and tumble was seen as criminal behaviour, but it was peculiar even at that time [the 1970s] because of the age difference.
“It’s how the behaviour developed. The fighting led to the defendant touching the boy’s genitals over his clothing.”
Mr Trafford added that, after this, inappropriate questions about the boy’s sexual development were asked by Coatman.
Coatman admitted abusing the boy following this, on another occasion at his home, where he asked him to take his clothes off.
Mr Trafford added that at the time of the abuse, Coatman was living as a bachelor but was “wrestling with his sexuality and found himself attracted to boys”.
The former maths teacher and head teacher retired in 1998 after 42 years’ work and was awarded an MBE in 2012 by the Queen.
Mr Trafford said: “The defendant’s MBE for services to young people was something that he (the victim) found difficult to comprehend under the circumstances.”
Defending Coatman, James Scobie said Coatman has led a celibate life since, claiming there to be no other victims.
He said: “In terms of the defendant, it has been difficult for him to come to terms with what has happened. It was an isolated period in his life.”
He added that Coatman had accepted what he did, and that his reputation is now in “tatters”.
Judge Anne Molyneux told Coatman: “You were in a position of considerable trust, and he (the victim) trusted you. He enjoyed being with you over a short period of time.”
She added: “At the time of the offence you were struggling to keep up with the pressures of your life.
“You were sexually naïve and immature and did not appreciate at the time that your conduct was wrong.”
The 76-year-old had been found guilty of gross indecency but his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal last April because a senior judge ruled he could not be charged with that particular offence at the time because of the age of the victim.
When the case returned to the Old Bailey, Coatman pleaded guilty on December 11 to an amended charge of indecent assault.
For that offence, Coatman was today sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was also made the subject of a 12-month supervision order.
Coatman, who must also sign onto the Sex Offenders Register, showed no emotion as he was sentenced.
Commenting on the case, an NSPCC spokesperson said: “Abusers come from all walks of life and some, like Coatman, can be hidden in plain sight.
“He betrayed the trust of his young victim who, thankfully, has found the courage to speak out and ensure he is brought to justice.
“After breaking his silence we hope the victim is receiving the help and support available to enable him to move forward with his life.
“No matter how much time has passed, it’s important that survivors of child sexual abuse have the confidence to come forward and report their ordeals.””