Man Bailed Over Historic Abuse

A 70-year-old man arrested by police as part of a major inquiry into historic allegations of child sex abuse at a Kent school for vulnerable children has been freed on bail.

The man, named by sources as Ron Parker, was held in Lancashire yesterday by officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate (SCD).

An SCD spokesman said today: "The man was interviewed by officers from the Kent and Essex SCD and bailed pending further inquiries.''

It is understood that Mr Parker worked at Swaylands School in Penshurst, which is at the centre of a extensive investigation into historic child sex abuse claims spanning four decades.

He is the fourth person to be arrested by detectives as part of an inquiry into previously unreported alleged abuse at the school between 1967 and 1993.

Some 20 suspected victims here and abroad have been identified, it has been disclosed.

This investigation follows an inquiry back in 1993 which resulted in the conviction of two men for six offences each of sexual offences against children.

The pair were sentenced to three years in jail for each offence, which ran concurrently, and related to four victims, a spokesman for the Kent and Essex SCD said.

But new information has since surfaced and resulted in a further investigation by detectives, leading to four arrests, including that of Mr Parker.

The others held and later bailed include a 72-year-old man from Norfolk, a 69-year-old man from Edinburgh and a 60-year-old man from Berkshire.

A further three suspects identified by officers died before the investigation was launched.

A special hotline has been set up for people to disclose any information to police about Swaylands School.

Based within a Grade II-listed building, the school was set up in 1942, and between the mid-1960s and 1994 was operated and managed by the London Borough of Barnet.

Pupils aged between seven and 19 with learning, emotional and behavioural difficulties were placed there by local authorities across London and the South East.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Fotheringham, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This is a complex inquiry, where we have traced many people and records spanning a number of years.

"Kent and Essex Police take allegations of previously unreported offending seriously and every effort is made to investigate whenever appropriate and possible.

"We have also been working with a number of charities to ensure that appropriate support is in place for the victims that we have been speaking with.''

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), said: "Coming forward and speaking with the police about the crime of childhood abuse is never easy.
"It is a particularly nasty crime that often leaves the victim feeling vulnerable and anxious. These feelings usually persist long into adulthood.

"Napac is pleased to be working alongside Kent Police to address these fears and they will pass on our contact details to anyone who needs our support.''

Investigating officers can be reached on 01622 654852, which will be staffed from 9am to 4pm today and tomorrow and an answerphone will be available at other times.