Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Former teachers guilty of abusing boys at Fife residential school

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

The headmaster and teacher of a former Fife school have been convicted of physical and sexual abuse against six pupils more than 30 years ago.

John Farrell, 73, of Motherwell, was found guilty of four charges and Paul Kelly, 64, of Plymouth, was convicted of seven charges.

They abused boys aged between 11 and 15 at St Ninian's in Falkland, a school for children from troubled backgrounds.

It was run by the Christian Brothers organisation and closed in 1983.

Farrell and Kelly, who both denied all charges, were remanded in custody pending sentencing next month.

Judge Lord Matthews said the men had been convicted of "very serious matters".

The pair, who were found guilty after a 13-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow, were both placed on the sex offenders register.

Sexual abuse

The jury acquitted Farrell of 18 charges relating to the case, while Kelly was acquitted of 22 charges.

Farrell, who was the headmaster, was convicted of physically abusing one boy and sexually abusing three others.

Kelly was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys and sexually and physically abusing a third.

One of the victims was sexually abused by both men on different occasions.

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

The victims were abused between 1979 and 1983, when they were aged between 11 and 15.

The abuse was uncovered due to the tenacity of one victim, who sparked an investigation after he made a formal complaint to the Archdiocese in 2013.

That inquiry uncovered many more complainers.

During the trial, the court heard that Kelly's bedroom was described as an "open area" where pupils often spent the night.

Boys said they were told by Kelly they were being abused for their "sexual education".

'The way it was'

In his evidence, Kelly said he had "never sexually molested anyone" and claimed that he spent his free time reading Tolkein.

Prosecutor Kath Harper later asked him: "Did you really think having boys sleep in your room would be approved of in general terms?"

Kelly: "No, but at St Ninian's I just thought of it as the way it was."

Farrell initially moved to England when St Ninian's closed, but soon returned to Scotland where he was ordained as a priest. He retired from the priesthood in 2012.

He denied being a child abuser and insisted that he had stuck to a vow of celibacy made when he joined the Christian Brothers.

Three other men linked to St Ninian's - ex-social worker Michael Murphy, 75; Edward Egan, 76; and William Don, 62 - had also faced abuse allegations, but these were thrown out during the trial.

Betrayed trust

Prosecutors had originally listed more than 100 charges involving 35 boys.

Ch Insp Nicola Shepherd, of Police Scotland, said: "For a number of years these men, who were placed in a position of trust, carried out prolonged abuse on a significant number of vulnerable young people.

"They betrayed that trust in the most despicable manner possible and subjected their victims to years of suffering.

"It is thanks to the courage of those who came forward to provide us with vital information that we were able to bring Farrell and Kelly to justice for their crimes."

An NSPCC Scotland spokesman said: "Abuse can ruin childhoods and Kelly and Farrell exploited their positions of trust to cynically target vulnerable children.

"As a result of the enormous bravery of the victims in speaking out these men won't be able to hurt any more children."

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