AN 81-YEAR-OLD former teacher was yesterday jailed for sexually abusing pupils nearly three decades ago.
John Pringle was told by a judge at the High Court in Edinburgh that, despite his age and the fact the offences had been committed almost 30 years ago, a four-and-a-half-year term had to be imposed to reflect the public's revulsion at what he had done.
The offences were carried out after Pringle, then a languages and guidance teacher in Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, lured three teenage boys to his caravan at Arrochar, Dunbartonshire, with promises of outward-bound-style weekends and alcohol.
The judge, Lord Woolman, said: "When they came to school, they had a right to expect that they would be looked after and respected, not abused. The sexual abuse of minors is a matter of grave concern, and it is materially aggravated when it involves a teacher abusing his pupils."
Pringle, of Tobermory, Mull, admitted indecency towards the boys, then aged 13 and 14, between 1979 and 1981.
None of the boys had realised at the time that there was anything wrong, and they carried their secrets into adulthood.
But memories of the abuse were reawakened in one man with the birth of his first child, and he went to the police. A few years later, a second man came forward to police.
Lord Woolman noted that Pringle had apologised and expressed his remorse publicly to his victims. He added: "None of them has exhibited any degree of vindictiveness. Their wish was for you to accept responsibility for your guilt."
The advocate-depute, Derek Ogg, QC, said Pringle had promoted the idea among the boys of attending outward-bound- type activities, such as hill-walking and canoeing. The events, unsupervised by any other adult, continued for a number of years.
He added: "It was only after they grew up and became more socially aware they realised to their distress that the conduct had grossly breached the trust inherent in a teacher-pupil relationship. They feel the outward-bound events were a lure to entice them, and retain them in the thrall of Pringle. At the time, they liked and admired him."
Frances Connor, defending, said Pringle had hoped he would die before the case reached court. He had tried to make amends in his own way by devoting free time to charity work, and had attempted to help one of the victims financially.
Ms Connor said Pringle had undertaken national service working with military intelligence in Germany. The abuse occurred after he had suffered a nervous breakdown in the wake of his father's death.
The judge said: "You had a pastoral role to play. You betrayed the trust of these pupils and their families.
"Your misconduct has had a profound impact and led to each of them suffering from psychological symptoms."
Lord Woolman said he took into account Pringle's previous clean record, and his apology, but felt only a custodial sentence was appropriate.
He told Pringle: "Although you are now 81, and the abuse took place a long time ago, the sentence must constitute adequate punishment. It must reflect public revulsion at conduct of this kind. In particular, it must provide a deterrent against others who might seek to abuse a similar position of trust."