Jury retires in the trial of three former members of staff from Swaylands School for boys in Penshurst, near Tonbridge

A jury has retired to consider verdicts in the trial of three former members of staff at a residential school for boys accused of “a multitude of sexual abuse” covering 30 years. Child care officers Colwyn Baker, 70, avid Hennessy, 73, and 61-year-old Nigel Putman are alleged to have molested children at Swaylands School in Penshurst. Baker is also accused of encouraging pupils to abuse each other. The three face a total of 49 charges at Maidstone Crown Court involving 24 boys. Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said Swaylands was a residential school for boys aged seven to 16 with moderate learning difficulties until 1989. It was re-designated as a 60-pupil residential school for boys aged 11 to 16 with emotional and behavioural problems. It was closed down in 1993. David Hennessy. Picture: Mike Gunnill Mr Bennetts told the jury of seven men and five women that Baker was convicted in February 1994 of four offences of indecent assault and one of gross indecency involving three boys at the school. Hennessy was convicted in December 1993 of four offences of indecent assault and two other serious sexual offences on one boy. “The reason you hear of these convictions is not to create prejudice against the defendants but because, as you will appreciate, they deny they have behaved in the way you will hear the complainants describe,” said Mr Bennetts. Nigel Putman. Picture: Mike Gunnill Baker was employed at the school from May 1967 until his suspension and arrest in January 1993. Hennessy was employed from March 1969. He resigned in pril 1977 but was re-employed in pril 1979. Baker, of Morningside, Edinburgh, denied 22 charges of indecent assault on a male, one of indecency with a child and three other serious sexual offences. Colwyn Baker. Picture: Mike Gunnill Hennessy, of Westfields, Narborough, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, denied 18 charges of indecent assault on a male, one of indecency with a child and one other serious sexual offence. Putman, of Kings Road, Slough, Berkshire, denied three charges of indecent assault on a male. Only Hennessy gave evidence during the trial which started on March 4. If you or a loved one have been subject to abuse please do not hesitate to contact Charles Derham our specialist child abuse solicitor. We will treat any communications with the strictest of confidence


Charles has considerable specialist experience in pursuing claims for compensation for those who have been abused in childhood. His specific expertise means that he is recognised locally, nationally and internationally for his work which has taken him all over the world including, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

He is also recognised for his significant involvement in the high profile litigation against St Georges School (Anglemoss Limited) and Cyntwell High School. These cases involved a staggering number of individuals who pursued those responsible whom despite heavily defending the claims brought against them settled by way of out of court settlements.

Charles regularly features in local and national press and he is often asked to provide his professional opinion and commentary on relevant abuse law issues and developments on radio and television broadcasts. Such broadcasts include BBC South Today, BBC Wales, ITV and ITN News.

Charles is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.

You can follow Charles on Twitter and Facebook.

Charles obtained his Law degree at Kingston University, before successfully completing his Legal Practice Course. He trained and qualified with Verisona Law beginning his specialism in the field of child abuse claims. He received his higher rights of Audience in 2012 making him one of the youngest Solicitor-Advocates in the country who is able to represent his clients in the High Court. Charles is head of the abuse team who collectively have secured compensation for hundreds of victims of abuse.

He began diversifying in to other aspects of abuse law and his team are one of the very few in the country who specialise in claims against social services.

He is involved in complex group action litigation and also represents a number of individuals and who are pursuing private companies, local authorities and perpetrators in pursuit of their justice.

Charles has strong contacts with some of the most prominent barristers who advise on abuse claims including a number of QC’s. He also has robust connections with highly qualified expert witnesses he instructs in support of those who he represents.

  • Child abuse claims
  • Claims against social services
  • Complex/Catastrophic Clinical Negligence claims

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