THE former head of a school near Evesham has denied three counts of gross indecency of a child and five of indecent assault.

Richard Alston, who now lives in Suffolk, appeared at Southwark Crown Court today where he denied the charges, alleged to have taken place in the late 1970s.

The 69-year-old of Vinery Road, Bury St Edmunds, was the head of New Barns School in Toddington, an independent school for children aged six to 12 with emotional and behavioural problems which closed in 1992.

He appeared alongside Charles Napier, aged 67, who is accused of one count of inciting a child to commit an act of gross indecency. Napier, of Sherbourne in Dorset, is the half-brother of Maldon MP John Whittingdale.

The charges are alleged to have take place at a west London school and concern a child who was 11 years old at the time.

The pair, smartly dressed in jackets and ties, spoke only to confirm their names.

They were both released on conditional bail.

They were arrested last year under Operation Cayacos, a strand of a wider investigation which was launched following claims by MP Tom Watson.