Saturday, November 15, 2014

Headteacher who was arrested at his desk on child sex abuse charges and endured year-long court ordeal is cleared by jury in just 15 minutes

The accuser should be prosecuted for perjury

A respected headmaster was cleared by a jury in just 15 minutes of molesting an unruly pupil in his study. James Bird, 53, was arrested at his desk and subjected to a year long court ordeal after he was accused of assaulting a boy more than decade ago when he was head of a Church of England primary school.

The boy, now 20, described as 'aggressive, confrontational and challenging' by staff had been sent to Mr Bird's study for being rude to a teacher in class.

Ten years later he went to police after a drinking session with a friend to claim he was forced to perform sex acts upon Mr Bird as 'punishment' for being naughty at St Peter's C or E Primary School, in Accrington, Lancashire.

During the inquiry Mr Bird was suspended and computer and phones were seized from his home in Leyland - but no inappropriate material was found.

This week following a trial at Preston Crown Court, Mr Bird who is currently headmaster at Newton Bluecoat C of E Primary near Kirkham was cleared of four counts of gross indecency after jurors dismissed the claims almost as soon as they had retired to consider their verdicts. They retired at 12.41pm on Thursday and came back at 12.56pm.

After the case Mr Bird, a Christian father of four said in a statement he was looking forward to getting back to work. He said: 'I'm very happy that the truth has come out. It was made crystal clear in court these incident did not occur and it has been very difficult since these allegations came to light.

'I'd like to thank my many friends colleagues, parents of pupils and other well wishers for all their support prayers and kindness and also particularly the support of our church. We have taken enormous strength from them all.

'Their strong faith and prayers, along with ours have made these 11 months bearable. After 338 very difficult days my family and I need to get our lives back to normal. I am now looking forward to spending some quality time with my 13-year-old daughter who I have not been allowed to be alone with since before Christmas last year. 'Secondly I'm looking forward to returning to my fantastic job as a headteacher and thanking my deputy and all the staff for the wonderful work they have done in my absence.'

Rev David Lyon of St Annes Parish Church who was chairman of governors at St Peter's and who gave a character reference as part of Mr Bird's defence case, said: 'I wonder why this case was brought. 'His approach to children was one that he wanted them to excel and be the best they could possible be. It's unbelievable.'

The court heard Mr Bird was accused of molesting the young boy on 'seven or eight occasions' between September 1 2002 and April 30 2004 when he was ten after he had been sent out of lessons for bad behaviour.

The complainant told a jury when he was taken into Bird's office for the first time, he thought he would be given lines to do as a punishment. He said: 'He used to say "you're bad aren't you?" and "you have to do this, this is your punishment". I just cannot get it out of my head what he has done now that I am older. It has just messed up my life.'

He added: 'I did not know what he was going to do. Normally you get lines that you have to write. We went to his office. He sat down and we did talk a bit about why I was misbehaving, but we did not really talk for that long.

'That is when he said, "it is more serious than you think and you are going to have to take a punishment for it". That is when he started making me do stuff.'

It was claimed on one occasion he was disciplined by Bird, who took him out of class to his office, where he shut the door and blinds and forced the boy to perform sex acts on him before calling his mother in to school to discuss his behaviour.

In December last year, while he was drunk, the man told a close friend about his claims and he was encouraged to report Mr Bird to police.

In an interview, hours after his arrest Bird blasted the man's claims as being 'absolutely ridiculous' and told officers he had always had an open door policy when disciplining pupils. He said he remembered the pupil, telling officers: 'He wasn't always a good boy, I remember that.'

But he said he could not remember any specific incidents where he had been involved in disciplining the schoolboy or spoken to him in his office.

Joan Smith, a former colleage of Mr Bird recalled the boy's behaviour being 'confrontational and challenging' at times and added: 'I often wondered what his aggression was about. He was quite an aggressive boy and I couldn't understand the reason. We got on well and had a good relationship.'

Today Det Con Karen Parker of Lancashire Police said: 'Whilst we are disappointed with the outcome of this trial, we of course respect the decision of the jury and I would like to thank them for their consideration of this case.

'Lancashire Constabulary remains committed to investigating allegations of sexual offences, no matter how historic, and no matter what the role, position and status of the alleged offender, and we would encourage anyone who has been a victim to come forward safe in the knowledge that they will be treated sensitively and professionally.'

A spokeswoman for the CPS said: 'The jury have had an opportunity over the course of the trial to hear and fully consider both the prosecution and the defence cases and we of course respect the verdicts.'

Original report here

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