A retired teacher has been jailed for abusing a young boy in North Devon.

Robert Clark was a supply teacher working in Devon during the 1980s and 1990s until he was barred from the profession for touching two primary school pupils.

He was living on a smallholding in North Devon where he also worked as a handyman and later became a potter.

He abused the boy on different occasions when the child was aged seven to 12. The offences happened a couple of years before he sexually assaulted two other boys at a primary school.

He was jailed at Exeter Crown Court after a judge told him he had ‘blighted the life’ of his victim for 30 years.

Clark, aged 71, of Rye Park, Winkleigh, admitted seven counts of indecent assault or indecency and was jailed for five years and ten months by Judge Timothy Rose, who put him on the sex offenders’ register for life.

He told him: “The harm inflicted by this pattern of offending was not just confined to the time when it was taking place. It is plain the victim has lived with it ever since and tortured himself over the remainder of his childhood and into adulthood.

“He is only now just able to move on. Your abuse has blighted his life for a period exceeding 30 years. I have to sentence you for the lifelong impact on the victim.”

Heather Hope, prosecuting, said the offences against the boy happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Clark had moved from London to Devon.

He had been a teacher in London and ran a smallholding while continuing to work as a supply teacher in schools around Devon.

The victim bottled up his feelings until he told his wife last year and then went to the police. Clark said he could not remember carrying out any of the offences. He pleaded guilty on what was due to be the first day of his trial last month.

The abuse stopped when the boy was old enough to push him away. Clark left him alone but told him to ‘remember it is okay’.

Miss Hope read out an impact statement which said: “All my life I lived with what he did to me, I have struggled to form close relationships and always felt like I am running.

“Since coming forward, I feel such mixed emotions. I feel relief and like I can stop running, knowing that justice will be done.”

Clark touched two primary school pupils over their clothing in the mid-1990s and received a probation order in September 1996.

Richard Crabb, defending, said Clark was sent on a sex offenders’ treatment programme and has lived a blameless life ever since, working as potter and helping with a charity project in Malawi.

Clark was interviewed following the victim coming forward to police and reporting the incidents. A police investigation was launched in March and Clark was interviewed in May.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Donna Money, said: “We praise the courage of the victim in this case for the strength he has demonstrated in coming forward and reporting this to police.

“This case is demonstrative of our commitment to getting justice for victims no matter how much time has passed since the offences happened. I would encourage anyone who has been affected by this case to contact police.”