Retired teacher denies hiding abuse for 30 years

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A former assistant headteacher has rejected allegations that he befriended vulnerable boys and sexually abused them over a number of years.

Married father-of-three Peter Merrick repeatedly told Bradford Crown Court today (Wednesday) that he had not abused any of the four men who claim they were molested by him when they were pupils at the William Henry Smith School.

Merrick, now 67, is alleged to have systematically abused the four pupils while he was working at the Brighouse residential school for boys with behaviour problems between 1977 and 1984.

During questioning from his barrister, Merrick said there were good and bad times while he was at the school, but looking back on his time there it had been “very positive and enjoyable”.

Allegations of abuse were originally made against Merrick in 1993, but that police inquiry was not pursued and it was not until 2009 that he was again questioned about alleged abuse at the school.

At a previous trial earlier this year a jury acquitted Merrick on one allegation of indecent assault involving one of the complainants and he has again denied a further 19 similar charges and two of buggery.

Prosecutor Matthew Bean alleged that Merrick had been trying to hide the sexual abuse.

“You are still today more than 30 years on hiding what you did at that school aren’t you?” said Mr Bean.

“No I’m not,” replied Merrick.

Mr Bean described the complainants as troubled and damaged children and alleged that Merrick had become sexually attracted to some of the boys in his care.

“You befriended them very often,” suggested Mr Bean.

“I treated all the boys equally,” said Merrick.

“You chose the boys who you thought were vulnerable,” said Mr Bean.

“No,” replied Merrick.

“You sexually abused them over a number of years,” alleged Mr Bean.

“No,” said Merrick.

Merrick dismissed suggestions pupils were made to take cold showers as a punishment and stated that the temperature of the showers was fixed.

He claimed to have spent less and less time with the boys directly during his time at the school and rejected suggestions that he was seeking to minimise his role with the youngsters.

The defendant, of Burton Road, Overseal, Derbyshire, has told the court that there were no problems or allegations relating to his work at any other school during his career and he left the William Henry Smith School when he was promoted to headteacher at another school.

The court heard that Merrick had been president and secretary of two branches of the Rotary Club and had been involved in charitable fund-raising as well as helping to organise a local festival.

Merrick said he didn’t know why the allegations were being made against him and he 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 trial continues.