NIGEL THORN­TON

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - NEWS - Writ­ten by Nigel Thorn­ton www.pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk @PeterboroughTel

If you pitched the tale of gam­bling, booz­ing head­mas­terJames Stewart and his school sex dun­geon as a film script you’d prob­a­bly be told it was too far fetched.

But in a re­mark­able and sen­sa­tional court case the ap­palling an­tics of the for­mer prin­ci­pal at Sawtry Com­mu­nity Col­lege were laid bare.

It’s hard to sti­fle the “fnarr, fnarrs’’’ when read­ing re­ports of Stewart’s case and his stag­ger­ingly sala­cious be­hav­iour.

There were mo­ments of pure com­edy, not least the time when he told staff he was leav­ing to go to a meet­ing only to be spot­ted on the telly at the horses.

Well, he wasn’t ly­ing.It was a meet­ing – a race meet­ing!

How­ever, the snig­gers pretty soon turn to stoney­faced shock as you ap­pre­ci­ate the dam­age this man did.

Staff de­scribed him as a “sex­ist, racist, fat­tist bully’ which does make you won­der how he con­vinced any­one to join him in his ex­tra cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

The school is thank­fully re­cov­er­ing, but make no bones about it, hun­dreds of chil­dren have suf­fered be­cause of this ex­cuse of a man and his out­ra­geous be­hav­iour.

The ques­tion many will be ask­ing is how on earth did Stewart get away with his fraud­u­lent and per­verted be­hav­iour for so long?

And how long might it have con­tin­ued were it not for Sarah Wil­son?

S he was the deputy prin­ci­pal at Sawtry Com­mu­nity Col­lege who raised the alarm about Stewart. She is now prin­ci­pal of the school – now re­named Sawtry Village Academy – with the re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­pair­ing the im­mense dam­age done by her dis­graced and jailed pre­de­ces­sor.

It is hard to be­lieve that his be­hav­iour was not the sub­ject of staff room gossip for some time be­fore Ms Wil­son stepped for­ward.

Whis­tle blow­ing takes much courage, be­cause peo­ple are putting their jobs and ca­reers on the line, and by the na­ture of it are tak­ing on pow­er­ful peo­ple in more se­nior po­si­tions. Stewart must have thought he was un­touch­able. Thanks to Ms Wil­son, he wasn’t. His name­sake, Hol­ly­wood leg­end James Stewart, starred in one of the great est movies of all time It’s A Won­der­ful Life.

“Our’’ James Stewart must have thought it was too, but now, in his prison cell, he might not think so. It would make a good film though.

James Stewart

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