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Ex-pupil claims he was “attacked” and “head butted” by Underley Hall owner

Carlisle Crown Court

[A] FORMER Underley Hall School pupil has told a jury he was “attacked” and “head butted” by the owner in a dining room “full of kids”.

Details of an alleged historic assault by Derrick Cooper at the South Cumbria boarding school emerged at Carlisle Crown Court today (WED).

Cooper, a 77-year-old former owner of Underley Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale, is on trial with four ex-staff members. Cooper denies assault and child cruelty allegations dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. The other men deny alleged assaults.

Giving evidence today, the former pupil spoke of fighting with another boy in a dormitory before going to the dining hall for tea. At that point, he said, Cooper left his table and “attacked me”.

The witness recalled: “He head butted me. I fell to the floor.

“He gave me a few kicks, around the body. He picked me up by the scruff of the neck.”

He added: “He tried to put his fingers in my eyes. He said ‘I’ll take your eyes out’.”

He told jurors he believed the incident, in a dining room “full of kids”, was as a result of the previous fight.

Prosecutor Michael Hayton QC asked: “Did you make a complaint to anybody?”

“No. I was a pretty hardy lad,” responded the witness, who said he suffered “a bit of a black eye”.

“I thought I deserved what I was getting because I had already done something wrong to deserve that.”

The witness conceded his time at Underley Hall had “turned out to be some of the best years I had in my life”.

Under cross-examination, the witness agreed he had latterly described Cooper in a statement as “all right”, “jovial” and “pretty fair” on a day-to-day basis.

“He was,” the witness told the court.

He admitted he “liked” Underley Hall. “But it didn’t mean to say you didn’t get beat up in it,” he stressed.

He added: “I am only here for one thing: for the truth to come out.”

The trial continues.

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