Former assistant head teacher of William Henry Smith School in Rastrick goes on trial over alleged sex abuse of four boys

On trial: Former assistant head teacher Peter Merrick, 66, denies 22 sex offences against four boys at the William Henry Smith School, Rastrick, in the late 70s and early 80s
On trial: Former assistant head teacher Peter Merrick, 66, denies 22 sex offences against four boys at the William Henry Smith School, Rastrick, in the late 70s and early 80s

A FORMER assistant headteacher has gone on trial accused of sexually abusing four pupils at a school for boys with behavioural difficulties.

Peter Merrick, 66, is alleged to have systematically abused the boys, aged 11 to 15, at the William Henry Smith School in Rastrick over seven years in 1970s and 1980s.

He denies 20 charges of indecent assault and two of rape.

Matthew Bean, prosecuting at Bradford Crown Court, told jurors the boys’ problems made them difficult to teach, but they had been sent to the school to help them.

“The defendant, as a teacher at the school, knew that these were boys who needed care and support,” he said.

“The defendant was in a position of particular responsibility and trust and he deliberately abused that position by committing these offences.”

He told the court Merrick started working at the school in 1976, and was promoted to become the assistant headteacher in charge of residential care in 1979.

He is alleged to have carried out the abuse around the school, including in the headteacher’s room, the shower area, the boot room and his own family’s living area.

Merrick is also alleged to have abused one boy while they were on an orienteering trip and to have molested another youngster in his car.

It emerged yesterday that police ended their investigation into Merrick after the first complainant came forward back in 1993.

That inquiry had uncovered school records detailing an earlier complaint by one of the other boys.

Mr Bean told the court Merrick was arrested, but police decided to stop the investigation after he denied the offences.

About 15 years later, a new inquiry began after police were contacted by solicitors representing people making claims against the school for physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The first two complainants were spoken to again and a third alleged victim also came forward.

Merrick maintained his denials but was charged. A fourth complainant then came forward earlier this year after seeing a newspaper report of the case.

Mr Bean said all four men were still deeply affected by the alleged abuse. He said the complainants had not been friends at school and had not been in regular contact with each other before the investigation.

“Each has decided separately to tell the police what the defendant did to them,” said Mr Bean.

He said one complainant ran away from the school after Merrick allegedly raped him, but was stopped and sent back by police, and the abuse continued.

Another complainant alleged that Merrick began to indecently touch him after sending him to the shower room to take a cold shower as a punishment.

The trial of Merrick, now of Overseal, Derbyshire, is expected to last about eight days.