“One of the victims of former Exmouth School teacher Geoffrey Perryman claims that sex abuse of boys was ‘rife’ at the time and is still angry about the way complaints were covered up at the time.
He has revealed that he and others finally decided to come forward nearly 50 years later after the national sex abuse scandal surrounding football coach Barry Bennell.
The victim claims that the school at the time covered-up his complaints and that Perryman was just one of the offenders. He claimed that part of the reason for the cover-up was that the school was held up as a shining light by the government as one of the country’s first and biggest comprehensive schools after it was created in 1967.
Others are supporting his claims and are asking if the case will ‘open the floodgates’ and bring more historic prosecutions.
Perryman, now 86, was a teacher and also a football coach at Exmouth for 25 years and left to work at another boys school in Gloucestershire. This week he was sentenced to 32 months’ imprisonment, given a sexual harm prevention order and placed onto the sex offenders register for assaults and indecency nearly years ago.
Perryman, of Kings Meadow Court, Gloucestershire, was found guilty of sexual assaults on children over 50 years ago, while working at the former Exmouth Secondary Modern School, now Exmouth Community College.
Since the case was reported dozens of past pupils have come forward on Devon and Cornwall Police Facebook page to describe Perryman’s ‘horrendous’ cruelty. Even after 40 or 50 years they recall that his favourite saying was ‘I hate kids’ and when asked why he was a teacher he said ‘I can hit them as a teacher’.
One victim, now 60, has spoken to DevonLive.com and says he now feels pity for Perryman but anger towards the school. When he bravely spoke out to a school counsellor about the abuse he says he was labelled a ‘trouble-maker’ and even his friends and classmates were warned to stay away from him.
He said the abuse happened on a school trip during a weekend away at Kingsbridge when he was a new boy at the school aged 12 or 13.
“After the Barry Bennell football sex abuse case made the headlines me and a few others decided to come forward, but it still took a lot of balls to talk about it,” he said. “The weird thing is I feel sorry for Perryman now. At 86 I’ve got no wish for retribution or to see him suffer. That’s not going to change anything now. Apparently he was too ill to come to Devon for the trial. That’s just the way I deal with it.
“Half the reason I have brought it out into the open is that this sort of stuff didn’t used to be taken seriously. I told them. The next thing I knew the headmaster had told my friends I was bad news and to avoid me.”
He also claims that Perryman was not the only authority figure at the school who was thought to have abused children.
“It was rife,” he said. “There were other teachers who were predators at the school. It was rife. You spent your life dodging them.
“The school knew. There were too many of them not to know. The thing was back then that it was just easier for them to brush it all under the table. That’s just the way it was.
“The school was massive. At that time it was one of the largest – if not the largest – comprehensive school in the country.
“It was awash with money because it was the government’s baby. The comprehensive scheme was new to the country and Exmouth was one of the leading lights. Nobody wanted the bad publicity. Exmouth School covered it up.
“Instead of doing anything positive they blamed me.
“The place where the abuse happened in the late 60s and early 70s in Kingsbridge was originally another school that Exmouth bought as a weekend retreat. I was young, just starting secondary school. I was a pretty, young boy with white blond hair.”
He said that going to the police and the court case had reopened old wounds that he thought he had dealt with.
“It has not been a pleasant experience,” he said. “The only good thing that’s come out of it is that I have decided to take up the offer of counselling. Once you open the door you start thinking about it all again and I don’t want it running into my life any more. I’m 60 now. I want to put it behind me. It was never gone. It was always there. It just gets less overwhelming.”
On the Devon & Cornwall Police Facebook post after this week’s court case dozens of ex-pupils came forward to talk about Perryman and also backed up claims that other teachers were involved.
Judith Pearce said: “Sadly he was one of many teachers at the school who made the life of some pupils a misery.”
Jan Sprague said: “He was hideous pulling hair and throwing blackboard rubbers at you, deff rumours then he was frightening.”
Another said: “We all knew,no surprises. Always in the showers. A bully too, I hate kids, was a regular thing he would say.”
Jay Dennis said: “Isn’t it strange how the pupils knew he wasn’t right,and yet the school was oblivious.”
Tony Smith said: “I can’t say I am surprised. He was a nasty piece of work. I remembering him leaving us out in the rain to play football.”
One claimed Perryman was also involved with Withycombe Church where boys in the choir were ‘nervous’ around him.
Sue Wray said: “I remember him horrible man. He wasn’t fit to be a teacher, vile.”
And Jeff Kamester said: “Wondering if this will open the flood gates for more prosecutions?”
Others said they were not surprised and that there were always rumours at the time. They said similar incidents occurred at summer camp at Huccombe on Dartmoor.”