A HOUSEMASTER at a private Herefordshire school who groomed seven pupils into sexual activity has been jailed for nine years.

David Panter, who taught English and history at Lucton School between 1971 and 1980, targeted pupils and often became a father figure to them, Worcester Crown Court heard last week.

Andrew Wallace, prosecuting, said that one of the boys showed a “high degree of courage” and complained in 1980.

Panter quit his job at the school but, the court heard, no further action was taken by the headmaster at the time.

Panter, now 68, would call the pupils into his study where he would put his hand inside their clothing to carry out an indecent assault or would get them to take part in an indecent act with him.

He took advantage of them after listening to their complaints about bullying and often because they had problems at home.

Offences also took place in a new dormitory – part of an old vicarage – and in Panter’s bungalow home.

There were also incidents in the school library and some boys alleged they were abused several times a month, either in his study or the dormitory.

Nineteen years after he left the school, a complaint by another boy led to a police investigation.

Panter, the judge said, admitted an offence and went on a twoyear sex offender course but did not confess to the other crimes.

Eventually, the court heard, other complaints came to light.

Panter admitted 27 sexual offences involving seven victims including oral rape, sexual activity with a child and indecent assault.

“You were a serial child abuser of boys in your charge,” Judge Robert Juckes QC told the former teacher.

“You had charm and ability but you used that to groom them into sexual activity with you.

“Many of them were vulnerable. You took advantage of your parental role, particularly when you became a housemaster. The abuse of trust was of the grossest kind.”

Panter, now of York Road, Kettering, was married at the time and had two daughters.

He had written a letter to the victims which the judge said he believed was genuinely contrite.

Mark Thompson, for Panter, said since 1980 he had led a blameless life.

He said after being offered the post at Lucton, Panter was mentally unwell and struggling with his own sexuality.

Andrew Taylor was one of Panter’s victims and waived his right to anonymity by speaking to the Hereford Times.

After sittting through the hearing, he said that the sentence was just, adding: “He betrayed the trust of the headmaster, who should have known his character.

“Each allegation he confessed [to] readily, which he needed to have credit for. Nine years is quite poetic as he was there nine years.”

Paul Thorne, bursar at Lucton School, said in a statement: “We are sad to hear of this news and, while current safeguarding standards have moved on immensely, news of crimes like this from the distant past immediately takes our thoughts and prayers to the victims of such abuse.

“It is also a reminder to all of the importance of vigilance and maintaining robust safeguarding policies and procedures.”