Ex-director of social services abuse charges thrown out

The case against a former County Durham approved school housemaster accused of sexual abuse has been thrown out by a judge – amid stinging criticism of police investigators.

Roderick Ryall’s legal team argued he had been subject to a “witch hunt” by police and alleged victims seeking to take advantage of his past convictions for child abuse.

Walking free from Teesside Crown Court, the 68-year-old condemned police handling of the case. He was alleged to have abused two teenage pupils at Aycliffe Approved School in the mid-to-late 1960s.

He was also accused of molesting a nine-year-old cub scout in the mid-1970s when he was director of social services in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

But Mr Ryall’s barrister, Tania Griffiths QC, said the complainants had used knowledge of sex offence convictions from 1988 to “jump on a bandwagon” to win compensation. She branded the latest investigation, by Durham Police, as a farce from start to finish – an accusation that was denied. She said: “This has been a witch hunt. It has been a trawling exercise, and it is quite unforgivable.”

Outside court, his solicitor Chris Saltrese said investigators were relying on the jury’s prejudice against a convicted sex offender to win the case. Mr Ryall had described the charges made against him as “complete and utter rubbish”.

Directing the jury of eight women and four men to return not guilty verdicts after they heard two weeks of evidence, Judge George Moorhouse said it had been impossible for Mr Ryall to receive a fair trial. He said: “It is clear that the officers conducting the investigation have not conducted themselves in a proper way.”

He said an internet search using the keywords ‘Ryall 2010′ had produced 16,700 hits, including one directing browsers to a Leeds solicitors’ website inviting people to make compensation claims against Mr Ryall.

Speaking on Mr Ryall’s behalf after he was cleared, Mr Saltrese said: “Our case was that the allegations were complete fabrications. The real story in the case was the laziness and incompetence of the police investigation.”

Mr Ryall, of Wheatley Drive, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, had denied ten counts of indecent assault on three alleged victims.