Court: Respected former teacher and vicar sentenced for abuse

Pat Reverend Peter Dunbar performs the blessing during the service of rededication of the newly restored Lych Gate, Greenhow Hill.(2008039a)
Pat Reverend Peter Dunbar performs the blessing during the service of rededication of the newly restored Lych Gate, Greenhow Hill.(2008039a)

A former Harrogate schoolteacher and local vicar has been given a suspended prison sentence after abusing two schoolboys more than 40 years ago.

Peter Dunbar, who taught at Harrogate’s Ashville College and St Aidan’s School, had been a 23-year-old deputy housemaster at the time of the incidents in the late 1960s.

Dunbar, now aged 67, had admitted three historic offences of indecent assault on the two boys who were between nine and 12 years old.

At Birmingham Crown Court on Monday he was sentenced to a total of 20 months in prison, suspended for 18 months. Dunbar, of Bridgehouse Gate, Pateley Bridge, was also ordered to pay £1,200 costs and will be on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.

Judge James Burbidge QC told Dunbar the incidents of sexual abuse were ‘evil acts’ and the victims were still living with what happened, continuing to blame themselves despite the passage of time.

“As a deputy housemaster with a bedroom next to these two young boys you were there as a protector and carer. It was a gross breach of trust,” he said.

He said that he had taken into account Dunbar’s unblemished life since the incidents and had read a substantial number of testimonials from colleagues, teachers, parents and students.

The court heard that the three offences admitted by Dunbar happened at a school in Harborne, near Birmingham, between January 1968 and December 1970.

They involved him touching the genitals of both boys and kissing one of them on the lips. Three other charges, involving allegations of physical contact with one of the boys, were ordered to lie on the file.

Miss Kristie Watson, for Dunbar, said her client, who is suffering the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, bitterly regretted the criminal acts and was devastated by what he had done and the effects on the two boys.

“At the time he was 23 and immature and impetuous and struggling with his own sexuality. A struggle that manifested itself in these three offences,” she said.

Miss Watson said that Dunbar had been in a relationship for 20 years and the offences could be seen as isolated incidents that have never been repeated.

Dunbar, a graduate of Durham University, had served as Upper Nidderdale vicar for 20 years until his retirement in September 2012. Prior to that he taught at St Aidan’s School and Ashville College.

Investigating officer PC Nadia Alazzawi said: “Dunbar’s victims have been haunted by what happened to them for many decades and have had to live for years with the impact of his actions. Thankfully they had the courage to eventually tell someone and now they’ve got the justice they deserve, knowing Dunbar has been held accountable for what he did to them.”