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16 August 2013, 14:09 | Updated: 16 August 2013, 14:14
A teacher at a private boarding school in Hampshire has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to abusing pupils as young as seven years old.
Nicholas Quest, 59, admitted six offences of indecent assault of a child and asked for a further count to be taken into consideration relating to a total of seven boys.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard that Quest, of Gosport, had preyed on young boys for more than a decade between the mid-1970s and the late 1980s at Boundary Oak Boarding School near Fareham.
He was suspended from the school when the allegations were made and has since resigned.
Matthew Lawson, prosecuting, said the abuse came to light after one former pupil contacted the school, which then alerted police.
The abuse, against boys aged between seven and 13, took place in the school library, in his own private room and even the classroom, the court heard.
Mr Lawson added that Quest was a popular teacher who gave presents such as rugby boots or sweets to his victims.
Mr Lawson said:
"The defendant at the time was a teacher at the school, teaching English, French and occasionally Latin and sport.
"The abused were boys all between seven and 13. The abuse in question over a period of time from the mid-'70s to the late '80s.''
He said the first former pupil to raise concerns said he was abused in the library.
He said: "At the time he thought it was nice and felt special, not realising, because of his young age, that he was being abused.
"He was first able to talk about the abuse he suffered when he was 19 and he revealed the abuse to his parents.''
Another victim told police: "I think he stole my innocence, he destroyed my self-confidence, he has eroded my ability to commit to relationships.''
The victim also said the abuse had led to him having a quick temper, drinking heavily and self-harming.
Sentencing Quest, Judge Roger Hetherington told him:
"The victims were boys at the school; many of them had parents who were a long way away and you were obviously, as the school was generally, in loco parentis for those boys.
"The method of abuse was broadly similar - you would find opportunities to sit next to or near to them in ordinary school activities and during that time you would take the opportunity to touch them.''
"They would have been too young to understand what was going on and you took advantage of them on repeated occasions.
"All of these victims will have been affected to some degree by what you did to them and it's plain from the statements that some of them were significantly affected and it would have led to real difficulties in their later life.
"Some of them had real difficulties at the time with trying to cope with what you were doing to them.''
The court heard that Quest's offending stopped when he got married and went on to have his own children.
Roderick James, defending, told the court that the offending had arisen from his client's difficulty in coming to terms with his homosexuality.
Judge Hetherington said:
"Many people struggle with their sexuality in their lives and they do not abuse boys in their trust and it was a gross abuse of trust.''
As well as the concurrent prison sentence, Quest was banned from working with children and vulnerable adults and placed on the sex offenders register.