A FORMER teacher who has been living near Taunton for the past decade has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for abusing four boys in the 1970s and 1980s.

Philip Ralph Batten, 70, who had been living in Stogumber was found guilty at Guidlford Crown Court on Tuesday, May 15 of indecently assaulting three boys and was sentenced on Thursday, May 19.

Batten had been a teacher at the Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Surrey and the offences predominantly occured at his former home address in Reigate.

He was also convicted for child cruelty against a fourth boy, a pupil who he taught, after he violently assaulted him when he was aged either 11 or 12-years-old. Batten then took steps to conceal the assault and the injuries sustained from other pupils and teachers.

In total he was convicted 42 offences including gross indecency, child cruelty, serious sexual assault and indecent assault on a child.

Investigating officer Detective Constable James Chapman, from the Surrey Police Complex Abuse Unit, said: “These offences have had a lasting effect on those involved with some of the victims only disclosing the offences for the first time in recent years, keeping the crimes to themselves and going through years of turmoil.

“Although those involved in these horrendous crimes have now spoken with their loved ones and police, the judicial process has brought back haunting memories, some of which they had put out of their minds for many years.

“The sentence handed to Batten will never undo the appalling offences he committed but I hope it will go some way to bring a form of closure to those he abused and allow them to move on with their lives.”

Detective Inspector Richard Haycock from the Surrey Police Complex Abuse Unit, said:  “The Surrey Police Complex Abuse Unit is designed to thoroughly investigate offences such as those Batten committed. Offences which can be multifaceted, lengthy and require expertise are investigated by this dedicated unit.

“I hope anyone who has been a victim of a similar offence will put their confidence in Surrey Police and speak with officers about their experience. We want to ensure all victims get the appropriate help and bring offenders to justice.”

The Gazette understands that Batten was a fixture of community life in Stogumber since moving to the West Somerset village in 2001.

It is reported that he was a regular church-goer, but backed out of village life around a year ago.