Former teacher on trial for sexual abuse of pupils

A FORMER assistant head teacher has gone on trial accused of systematic sexual abuse at a Rastrick school more than 30 years ago.

A jury has heard how Peter Merrick (inset right seen leaving Calderdale Magistrates court) deliberately abused his position of responsibility and trust by committing repeated offences of sexual abuse against four male pupils during his time at William Henry Smith School.

Merrick, now aged 66, of Burton Road, Overseal, Derbyshire, has denied 19 charges of indecent assault and two of buggery arising out of allegations dating back to a period between 1977 and 1984 when the boys were aged 11 to 15.

Prosecutor Matthew Bean told Bradford Crown Court that the four complainants had been deeply affected by the offending against them and he revealed that an initial police investigation was started in 1993.

The case was dropped but in 2008 the police were contacted by a firm of solicitors representing people who were making claims against the school for physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The investigation was restarted and in May 2011 Merrick was charged with offences against thhree complaints. A fourth pupil came forward earlier this year after reading a newspaper report about the case but Merrick denied the allegations when he was interviewed.

Mr Bean said it may be suggested that the complainants are motivated wholly or in part by money, but he said the key question for the jury was whether what they say happened did happen.

The court heard that the residential school dealt with youngsters with behavioural problems and Mr Bean said all the complainants, to varying degrees, were difficult to teach.

“The reason that they were sent to the school was to help them,” Mr Bean told the jury.

“The defendant as a teacher at the school was aware that these were boys who needed care and support.

“As such the prosecution say that the defendant was in a particular position of responsibility and trust and that he deliberately abused that position by committing these offences.”

Merrick is alleged to have sexually abused the youngsters in various locations at the school including the headmaster’s room and his own family accommodation on the site.

One complainant alleges that he ran away from the school because but it continued after he was stopped by the police and taken back.

Another complainant claims that he was indecently touched by Merrick after he had been told to take a cold shower as a punishment.

The trial is expected to last about a week.