Convicted paedophile quits post as Sherborne theatre group director
A convicted paedophile who this week resigned as director of a Sherborne theatre group says he is devastated that his dark past has come back to haunt him.
Charles Napier, 65, of Sherborne, stood down from the Amateur Players of Sherborne (APS) amid allegations he had been interviewed by police over his links with a notorious paedophile ring in the 1980s.
Speaking to the Western Gazette yesterday Mr Napier said he was “devastated” that he could no longer be part of the APS.
He said: “This is very difficult.
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“In my 20s and 30s I was in a very bad place.
“I was a very unhappy and confused young man and I was involved in things I deeply regret.
“In my 30s I discovered my career and I thought I had put it all behind me.
“In 1995 my past caught up with me. I had committed offences and I paid for them. I was convicted and I served my time in jail. From then I tried to live my life as an honourable member of the community.
“But this has come back to haunt me.”
Mr Napier, a former envoy for the British Council in Cairo, was imprisoned for nine months in 1995 for two offences of sexually abusing a boy under the age of 16. He had enticed the boy to his home in Surrey during the 1980s.
The society was due to open its production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale next Thursday at the Digby Hall, Hound Street.
After an emergency committee meeting on Monday night, APS decided to cancel the production altogether.
Chairman Stuart McCreadie said: “In view of recent events which have prompted the resignation of Charles Napier from the Amateur Players of Sherborne, it is with great regret that the society has decided to cancel next week’s production of A Winter’s Tale.”
Mr Napier has acted in, directed, or designed the set for the last six productions for the players.
The resignation came after claims in The Mirror that Mr Napier may have been interviewed by Metropolitan Police detectives over alleged links with Peter Righton, the founder of the now disbanded Paedophile Information Exchange network (PIE).
References to Mr Napier were also made in Private Eye.
The network campaigned in the 1970s and 1980s to reduce the age of consent to as young as four.
Righton was convicted in 1992 of importing and possessing illegal pornographic material.
Mr Napier said he has long detached himself from PIE.
He said: “I was once treasurer of the PIE network.
“But I came out of it long ago and I have not been in touch with members of it for a long time.
“I see it as part of my dark past which I have tried to move on from.”
In the House of Commons last month MP Tom Watson called for police to re-examine evidence used to convict Righton more than 20 years ago and presented a list of names to the police.
On Monday a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: “We would never confirm who we are interviewing with regard to ongoing investigations. But we can confirm we have approached everyone featured on a list provided to us by MP Tom Watson.”
Last month Mr Napier discussed the forthcoming production in Sherborne School as part of the town’s literary festival.
Judith Spelman, festival organiser, said: “We are very upset to hear this news. Mr Napier approached us to talk about the play and we wanted to involve as many local people as possible in the event.
“At no time was Mr Napier alone on school premises. As with all our speakers he was accompanied by a festival chaperone at all times.”
Chris Davis, headmaster of Sherborne School, said: “Although this was not a school event, we were approached by the Sherborne Literary Society, to provide a venue to the town’s Literary Festival for the lecture, which was open to members of the public, rather than boys from Sherborne.
“On investigating concerns raised about this event we remain confident that our child protection procedures, which are rigorous and regularly reviewed, were applied correctly to ensure the continuing safety of our pupils. We have also been in communication with Dorset Police about the issue.”
Mr Napier said: “I agreed to take part in the literary festival months before I knew where the talk would be held. Then it never crossed my mind that it would be problem.
“I am devastated that I cannot be involved with the APS and with A Winter’s Tale anymore. I think I might not ever be able to take part in something like this again.
“It is sad that something like this has happened over a play that is about forgiveness and reconciliation. I hope at least that I will be able to remain in Sherborne where I live with my 92-year-old mother.”
A full refund is being offered for tickets already purchased for A Winter’s Tale. Contact Stuart McCreadie on 01963 210548.