Scotland

Boys abused under residential school's brutal regime

Image caption Paul Kelly, on the left, and John Farrell both taught at St Ninian's

Two former teachers have been convicted of sexually and physically abusing boys at a residential school in Fife in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Paul Kelly, 64, of Plymouth, was convicted of seven charges and acquitted of 22, while John Farrell, 73, of Motherwell, was found guilty of four and acquitted of 18 charges.


Paul Kelly and John Farrell were supposed to care for the pupils at St Ninian's.

Instead, when they taught at the school in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they sexually and physically abused six boys between the ages of 11 and 15.

St Ninian's, which was located in the Fife village of Falkland, was a "List G" state school for troubled children, run by the Christian Brothers organisation.

Most of its pupils came from Glasgow, Dundee and Perth and many were from broken and abusive homes, and had been in some kind of trouble themselves.

St Ninian's was supposed to give them a chance at life.

But for the boys preyed on by Kelly and Farrell, they were denied that chance.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption Kelly, on the left, and Farrell, abused boys at St Ninian's while working there in the 70s and 80s

As well as being indecently assaulted, boys also suffered under a brutal regime of corporal punishment.

They were repeatedly punched, kicked and hit with belts.

In one case, a boy's head was slammed off a sink.

After St Ninian's closed in 1983, Farrell, from Motherwell, and Kelly, who latterly lived in Plymouth, seemingly went on to lead normal lives.

Past crimes

Farrell, who joined the Christian Brothers at the age of 18 and was eventually appointed head teacher at St Ninian's, became a priest, while Kelly continued to teach.

But their past crimes came to light in 2012 after some former pupils independently came forward to talk about their ordeal.

However, there were challenges.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption The building which was formerly home to St Ninian's, which closed in 1983

Ch Insp Nicola Shepherd, of Police Scotland, said: "Detectives turning up at someone's door after 40 years and asking about something traumatic - and in many cases something they'd chosen to forget - we are very aware that these victims needed a lot of support, which they received, and we are aware it's been a difficult time for them.

"I don't think there are words to describe how horrific and systematic this abuse by Farrell and Kelly of these boys quite was."

After an investigation lasting several years, the pair were charged and went on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

As the trial got under way, the former pupils - now in middle age - relived the horror of what happened at St Ninian's, as they recounted their stories in the hope that their abusers would face justice.

Following their conviction, Farrell and Kelly face lengthy jail terms.

For the former pupils who suffered at the hands of the pair, they may feel justice has been served.

But the horrific memories of what happened to them at St Ninian's will probably never fade.

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