HE appeared a pillar of respectability as a teacher and Scoutleader.

But now Stephen Scholes has been unmasked as a serial sex offender, targetting young boys over some 20 years.

The 68-year-old from Newsome, Huddersfield, is now starting a six-year sentence in jail after his crimes were unravelled in a major investigation.

The inquiry was part of Operation Clyde, a nationwide investigation into allegations of sex abuse.

Scholes abused 12 boys during a 20-year period.

Leeds Crown Court heard he used his various posts in the Kirklees area between the mid 1970s and 1990s to “engineer situations” which would enable his offences sometimes while camping or on outdoor activities.

Some victims were abused at schools where he taught betraying the high level of trust placed in him.

Michael Smith prosecuting said in 2014 Royds Hall School in Huddersfield was celebrating a 90th anniversary and asked for people to send in their memories of time at the school.

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They received an e-mail from a former pupil alleging he had been abused by Scholes. As a result of that police went to see Scholes who had left there in 1997.

He immediately made some admissions and when he attended for an interview said he had committed acts on about nine boys although refused to name most of them.

He said he had paid one boy £1,000 while an outward activities co-ordinator at Royds Hall. He also admitted one of the victims was a pupil at Holmfirth High School where he had previously taught.

Mr Smith said police inquiries were then extended to that school and to the Scout movement having been connected to scouts in Newsome and an assistant commissioner and a number of victims were identified.

Royds Hall

That led to a further interview in April last year in which he gave details of other victims, some had been traced and did not wish to make a statement. Some described the impact of the abuse on them which most had kept secret and one victim had never been traced.

Some of the offences involved Scholes touching the boys, others involved them touching him. Most were aged around 13.

One former pupil at Royd Hall said the offences happened to him on camping trips while another said he was approached by Scholes and kissed in a cupboard in a maths club and was touched on outward bound activities.

He was also taken to Scholes home where on one occasion he was given a gin and tonic and the teacher attempted to have sex with him.

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Mr Smith told the court other victims were discovered who had been pupils at Combs Hill Residential school where Scholes was a part-time member of staff for a time. One said he remembered Scholes “fondling” him. He felt the abuse had “violated his childhood.”

Simon Batiste, representing Scholes, said but for his admissions many of the victims would never have been known which was “strikingly unusual” in such a case.

He said Scholes, who had recently had open heart surgery, had expressed genuine remorse for his behaviour and the sorrow he had caused.

Scholes, 68 of Newsome Road South, Newsome, admitted 17 charges of indecent assault, four of gross indecency and one of attempted buggery. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for life.

Jailing him the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC said his was an abuse of power.

“These are not single assault offences but a pattern of conduct against 12 victims over more than 20 years. It is clear you had some distorted thinking.”

Kirklees Council is likely to face claims for compensation from at least one of Scholes’ victims.

Kieran Chatterton, of Switalskis solicitors, said: “Some of Scholes victims did not want to talk about what happened but others did.

“Our client has co-operated fully with the police inquiry and we will now look to follow a civil claim against Kirklees Council, as the local education authorioty”.

Scholes spent many years with the 45th Newsome Scout Group.

A spokesman for the Scout Association said: “The Scout Association is aware of the police investigation of Stephen Scholes.The Scout Association has co-operated fully with the statutory agencies in support of their investigation and condemns the actions of Scholes.

“Scholes has not been involved with the Movement for over 15 years. We can confirm that he will never again be allowed to work within the Scout Movement.

“The Scout Association carries out stringent vetting of all adults who work with young people and requires them to work to strict guidelines outlined in the ‘Young People