A retired teacher accused of sexually abusing four male pupils while he worked at a West Yorkshire residential school in the late 1970s and 80s has been cleared on all charges.
Married father-of-three Peter Merrick, 67, was originally questioned about sexual allegations almost 20 years ago, but that inquiry was not pursued and he was only charged with a series of offences after a new police investigation was launched in 2008.
Merrick, a former Rotary Club branch president and charity fund-raiser, had denied all the allegations throughout the police inquiries and this afternoon (Friday) an 11-member jury at Bradford Crown Court returned unanimous not guilty verdicts on 19 charges of indecent assault and two of buggery.
The prosecution had alleged that Merrick, of Burton Road, Overseal, Derbyshire, systematically abused four boys while he was an assistant headteacher at the William Henry Smith School in Brighouse.
But Merrick told the jury of his shock and anger when the allegations first surfaced in 1993 and he rejected prosecution suggestions that he had befriended vulnerable young boys so he could abuse his position of trust.
Merrick said he didn’t know why the allegations were being made against him and had simply been doing his job at the school.
He said he had done everything he could to help the young people at the school and was no further forward in trying to rationalise why the allegations were being made.
The complainants, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were sent to the school because of their behavioural problems as youngsters and they alleged that Merrick had sexually abused them in various locations at the school including the headmaster’s office and the living quarters which he occupied with his wife and family.
A previous jury at an earlier trial had cleared Merrick on one allegation of indecent assault, but failed to reach verdicts on the remaining allegations.
Today/yesterday however a second jury took less than five hours to return a series of not guilty verdicts on all remaining matters.
Judge John Potter said Merrick’s legal costs would be paid as a result of his acquittal and he discharged him from the dock.