News

Housemaster at boarding school 'sexually touched feet' of pupils, court hears

The case opened at Carlisle Crown Court today
The case opened at Carlisle Crown Court today

A housemaster at an independent boarding school sexually touched the feet of two pupils while he thought they were asleep in bed, a jury has heard.

Christopher Griffin, 57, is said to have targeted the teenagers as he conducted his nightly rounds to check if all the students were in their living quarters.

Griffin denies committing five counts of sexual assault and one count of attempted sexual assault at Sedbergh School in Cumbria - founded in 1525 with term fees of £10,590 for boarding pupils.

Opening the case at Carlisle Crown Court, Kim Whittlestone, prosecuting, told jurors: "It is an unusual case because of the nature of the allegations that the boys make against him.

"The prosecution case is that while he believed they were asleep at night he would enter their rooms and he would touch, stroke and massage their feet and lower legs."

Miss Whittlestone said Griffin had been a housemaster at Sedbergh School "for a considerable period of time" and was said to be well liked by staff and pupils alike.

She said the first complainant alleged that Griffin would regularly shine a torch in his face after midnight before he placed his hand under the duvet and stroked his feet and massaged his lower legs for "five to 10 minutes" before he left.

The court heard that this would happen "at least once a week" to the boy who eventually told a senior member of staff at the school. An investigation was then launched into the matter.

A second complainant said he too had been pretending to sleep one night when the defendant slipped his hand under the covers and took hold of both his feet separately and squeezed and stroked them.

The youngster also described how he could feel the defendant's breath on his feet.

He said that Griffin had also reached under his bed covers and searched for his feet on another late night check.

Giving evidence in court screened from the defendant, the first complainant said Griffin would touch his feet while standing at the bottom of his bed.

Miss Whittlestone asked him: "How did that make you feel when that happened?"

The witness replied: "Not safe and sort of helpless."

He that he would try to stop the touching on occasion by "wrapping myself in the blanket so my feet would not be free".

"Sometimes it worked," he told the court.

The second complaint told the jury via videolink that he felt "quite uncomfortable" after he said Griffin took hold of both his feet - each for about a minute.

He said: "Not long after that I pulled my feet up, rolled over and tried to go to sleep."

Shortly after while still in bed the complainant texted a friend: "Pretty freaked out. Griff just came into my room and held my feet."

Griffin, of New Road, Ingleton, North Yorkshire, denies the offences, said to have taken place in 2015 and 2016.

It is alleged the touching was sexual, that each complainant did not consent to it and that Griffin did not reasonably believe that consent had been given.

The trial continues on Wednesday.