Former Surrey teacher jailed for non-recent sex offences
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A man who abused his position of trust as a teacher over a 28-year period was jailed for 11 years at Guildford Crown Court today (23 March).
Creighton Muirhead, 67, of the Lechlade area of Gloucestershire, was convicted of 23 offences of non-recent sexual offences against 19 victims which took place at a school in Dorking and a school in Swindon between 1980 and 2008.
The victims were all former pupils, both male and female, of The Ruskin School in Swindon, Wiltshire, and The Weald School in Beare Green, Dorking.
Speaking after the sentencing, one of Muirhead’s victims described how his actions had led to her “deep mistrust of teachers, schools and the education system as a whole”.
She said: “School should be a place that you feel safe and happy to learn and thrive. Creighton Muirhead made school for me a place of fear, dread and disgust.
“His actions resulted in my senior school years being completely devoid of motivation and a continuous struggle to learn in an environment I deemed a danger zone.
“As a parent I have suffered with entrusting my children with other adults. I would say the impact has made me a very overly paranoid and anxious parent.”
One of Muirhead’s other victims described how she had given up sport, something she loved and was good at, because of her “low self-esteem and insecurity and distrust of men”.
She described how coming forward in April 2018 with her allegations brought “it all forward again in my memory”.
“Each day thinking about what happened, trying to make sense of it all in my mind, how someone in that authority could do that to me as a child and still affect my life today. I don't have an answer and that upsets me to the point of tears and my level of distrust has risen. I feel angry at myself, I question myself, I blame myself and I shouldn't do as I was a child, it wasn't my fault, it was him and it wasn't and still isn't right.”
During the eight-week trial, the court heard how Muirhead targeted former female pupils between 1999 and 2004 at The Ruskin School, during gymnastics lessons which he ran before and after school. By this stage on his career, Mr Muirhead was a headteacher and did not have classroom duties.
Concerns were raised by pupils and teachers at the time, and in 2004 an investigation was carried out by Wiltshire Police which unfortunately did not result in any charges being brought at the time.
However, since that time, further accounts providing corroborative evidence which were not available in 2004, were obtained, which resulted in charges being agreed.
Similar offences of sexual and inappropriate touching were reported by pupils at The Weald School during the 1980s. Most of the victims were targeted on several occasions.
A further victim came forward in 2020 after she saw an article in the press reporting that Muirhead had been charged with offences relating to former pupils from The Weald School.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Paddy Mayers, from Surrey Police’s Complex Abuse Unit, said: “I must first of all pay tribute to the victims who gave their evidence in court which has helped ensure that Muirhead is now behind bars. Muirhead targeted numerous victims on many occasions over decades and committed these offences while working at different schools in different counties. They have put their trust in him as their teacher and he has abused this trust in the worst possible way.
“With the number of victims and offences involved, this was a long and complex investigation and I would like to thank the team, particularly the investigating officer Detective Constable Tom Gilbert, for their hard work and determination which has resulted in Muirhead being brought to justice for his heinous crimes.
“I would like to remind those who offend or consider offending against children that those children grow up and are likely to come forward and that we will pursue all allegations, no matter how long ago the offences took place. We will also ensure that anyone who does come forward will not only be taken seriously but will also be provided with specialist support.”
Detective Sergeant Ross Linaker said: “Creighton Muirhead was a sexual predator who used his position as a teacher to gain access to children and then sexually abuse them for his own gratification. The scale of his offending, which went unchallenged for years and occurred at two schools decades apart, cannot be underestimated. I hope that Muirhead’s conviction sends a clear message that we will always do everything we can to ensure allegations of sexual abuse are investigated thoroughly and that we will leave no stone unturned to get to the truth.”
Detective Constable Tom Gilbert, who investigated the case, added: “I would like to thank all of the victims of these crimes for their courage in coming forwards and giving evidence. There is no hiding place for people who commit crimes of this nature.”
All survivors of rape and sexual assault are encouraged to come forward – whether directly to us, to a support service such as RASASC, or to someone you trust, such as a healthcare professional.
Surrey’s Rape and Sexual Assault Support Centre provides a support service for survivors of recent and non-recent rape and sexual assault. More advice about the support they offer can be found on their website: https://www.rasasc.org/