Victims' anger at cruelty sentence

A Hollywood stunt man today described the appalling abuse he suffered at a Norfolk school which was run under a “regime of fear” and the focus of the county's biggest ever child cruelty investigation.

A Hollywood stunt man today described the appalling abuse he suffered at a Norfolk school which was run under a “regime of fear” and the focus of the county's biggest ever child cruelty investigation.

Charles Jarman, who has worked on blockbusters such as Casino Royale, Gladiator and the Da Vinci Code, described how former headteacher George Robson left him to “hobble” after taking away the crutches he relied on for a broken hip at the age of 10 because he didn't want them to ruin a new floor, leaving him with permanent damage.

Mr Jarman, 38, who now lives in Vancouver, was speaking after Robson, the proprietor and former head teacher of Banham Marshalls College, formerly the Old Rectory, near Diss, was given a two year suspended sentence for child cruelty at Norwich Crown Court.

Other victims attending court today spoke of their anger and disappointment after Robson, 66, of Old Rectory, The Street, Bridgham, was sentenced in his absence due to his ill health, and claimed that the tariff did not reflect the gravity of his offences.

Last month the EDP reported how Robson had been found guilty of five counts of causing cruelty to children in 2005. The case could not be reported prior to this as he was awaiting trial for indecent assault. These charges were dropped after the court heard he was not well enough to stand trial. Robson had previously been seen as a pillar of the community who had rubbed shoulders with Princess Anne and former prime minister Tony Blair.

Today, the court heard that Robson would not be in court for sentencing because doctors say he is at “end stage” heart failure and not well enough to attend. This angered about 30 victims and their families who had gathered to see him face justice.

Most Read

Sentencing Robson, Judge Paul Downes said there was a “culture of violence” at the school. He said: “It is quite clear to me that George Robson had a particular belief in strong control, which was maybe something to do with his military background. There was a general culture at the school, which I am afraid George Robson was responsible for, involving a rather rough approach to problems, including fighting that went on between these children and he, as the headmaster, set the tone for the school, others followed suit.”

Explaining why Robson was not in court, Judge Downes said: “The proceedings have taken many years and the evidence I am now faced with is of several different independent doctors who tell me George Robson is at end stage heart failure. Clearly he is not fit to be here today. This is not a question, from what I can see, of medical evidence being used to avoid the consequences… He is clearly in a very bad state.”

Handing Robson a two year suspended prison sentence, Judge Downes said: “It was in my view an unforgiveable conduct towards disadvantaged children and in breach of his trust to look after them. He will have to face-up to that for the rest of his life however long that maybe that he has been convicted of such serious charges in relation to disadvantaged children.”

He added: “If it were not for his condition he would have received a much longer sentence and it would be a sentence of immediate custody.”

During the trial the court heard that incidents at the school, which catered for youngsters with various special educational needs, included two pupils being encouraged to fight each other and other pupils were forced to fight against one child.

George Robson was also found guilty of forcing a boy to eat his own regurgitated food and another incident involved a boy being made to smash his new toys with a hammer after damaging a piece of furniture.

Speaking outside court, Mr Jarman said that along with the incident involving the crutches, George Robson's brother Anthony Robson, known as Tony Thomas to pupils, had also broken two of his ribs.

Anthony Robson 63, of Mill Road, Banham, has been convicted of four counts of child cruelty, and is due to be sentenced next month.

Mr Jarman said: “The school was run under a regime of fear, but that fear was backed up on an almost daily basis of seeing people punched and children being broken in one way or another. The length of sentence isn't important to me. At the end of the day he got convicted. He has paid the ultimate price for what he has done. He hasn't escaped justice.

“I had two ribs broken by Tony Thomas and when I was 10-years-old George Robson took away the crutches I had been given because I had broken my hip. I had to hobble around without any crutches because he had just had a new floor put down and didn't want me to ruin it.”

Siobhan Young, 38, who attended Banham Marshalls College in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said of her experience at the school: “It was hell. I am really angry that he was not in court. He is a coward. He could have come to face up to what he did, but he couldn't have faced all these people.”

She said the sentence was not long enough and added: “He got two years, but we have got a life sentence. We have had our day in court, we have gone through this for four years and he couldn't even turn up.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter