Pair jailed for sexual abuse at former residential school for vulnerable boys

Two men jailed for sexually abusing boys at the Catholic-run school where they taught committed a “gross abuse of trust”, a judge said.

John Farrell, 73, and Paul Kelly, 64, were sentenced to five and 10 years respectively for assaulting vulnerable pupils at St Ninian’s in Falkland, Fife, in the late 1970s and 80s.

The prosecution followed one of the biggest abuse inquiries of its kind ever carried out by Police Scotland.

Farrell, from Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, was jailed for three counts of indecent assault and Kelly, from Plymouth, Devon, was sentenced to 10 years for four counts of indecent assault and two assault charges.

The men were members of the Catholic religious order the Congregation of Christian Brothers, which ran the school.

Farrell went on to become a priest and Kelly continued to teach until his retirement four years ago.

At the High Court in Glasgow, Judge Lord Matthews said: “The jury found you guilty of a number of gross abuses of the trust placed in you in relation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society, children from difficult backgrounds with no effective voice.

“The vulnerabilities to which all of the victims were already subject were plainly greatly exacerbated by the revolting abuse to which they were subjected at St Ninian’s and it is no exaggeration to say that their whole lives have been blighted by what went on.

“No sentence I can pass can undo the grievous harm caused to them by your conduct. It can only be hoped that the jury’s verdict can provide some form of closure for them after all these years.”

Victims and their supporters who were gathered in court clapped as the sentence was handed down, one of them shouting: “Hope you enjoy every day of it”.

They hugged one another after leaving the courtroom, with several people in tears.

St Ninian’s housed about 45 vulnerable boys in need of care until its closure in 1983.

The judge said the school was meant to be an educational establishment but also a “haven” for children in need of care, protection and guidance.

Farrell – headmaster at the school – and Kelly committed the crimes over a four-year period from 1979 against pupils aged 11 to 15.

The pair were tried on about 50 charges but the jury found them not guilty, or the offence not proven, for all but 11 on July 22.

On Friday, Lord Matthews discharged them on one assault charge each for legal reasons.

Kenny Donnelly, procurator fiscal for sexual offences in the east of Scotland, said: “Although these crimes took place decades ago, this case, and others like it, show that justice can be achieved after many years.

“We strongly encourage anyone who has been a victim of any such offences to report this to the police, even after a significant passage of time, and they can be confident that they will be treated with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity by the police and our expert prosecutors.”

The current police investigation into St Ninian’s began in 2013 after officers received three separate complaints of sexual abuse from former pupils.

A total of 37 men eventually came forward with claims relating to their stay at the residential school, which took in boys who had been orphaned, neglected, or could not be looked after by their parents.

Farrell and Kelly were sentenced for convictions relating to five victims following a lengthy trial.

Charges against three other men were dropped earlier in the prosecution.

Kelly continues to deny the offences, his defence counsel told the court.

One victim, who wants to remain anonymous, told Heart FM: “I’m pretty disappointed at the sentences. They certainly don’t reflect what they’ve been convicted of.

“I know what they did and the other boys know what they did. They will suffer for what they’ve done.

“They took a lot of kids’ childhoods. There are certain guys that couldn’t be here today because they are still so traumatised by it.

“It’s the end of this case but I think it will now prompt others who didn’t come forward before.

“If something happened to you when you were a kid, come forward.

“I never thought I would have the courage to start this procedure and see it through. I’m glad I did it now. I’d be quite happy to support anyone else that wanted to come forward.”

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