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Former Underley Hall School owner denies “assault” and “abuse” claims

Derrick Cooper outside Carlisle Crown Court earlier in the trial

[T]HE former owner of a South Cumbria residential school has insisted he did not commit a string of alleged assaults or cruelty offences against pupils.

Derrick Cooper, 77, who formerly ran Underley Hall School, near Kirkby Lonsdale, is on trial at Carlisle Crown Court. Cooper denies six assault charges and also two child cruelty allegations – all dating back to the 1970s and 1980s when he was in joint and, later, sole charge.

Three former staff members also each deny one assault allegation.

Today (MON) Cooper spent almost two-and-a-half hours giving evidence from the witness box. His barrister, Peter Wright QC, asked him about each charge – and the alleged details of it – in turn.

Cooper, now of Hillberry Green, Douglas, Isle of Man, denied each and every allegation – and insisted he didn’t even remember two of the seven ex-students who had accused him.

Asked whether he was involved in the repeated “kicking and slapping” of one boy, Cooper replied: “It didn’t happen.”

Asked whether he had “butted” another boy, Cooper – a man of good character – responded: “No I didn’t.”

And asked whether he had pulled the legs of an injured pupil who suffered multiple breaks falling from a first floor window ledge, the former owner told jurors: “Oh no. Good lord, no.”

Mr Wright had earlier said to jurors: “We say Derrick Cooper has, for whatever unfathomable reason, been falsely accused.”

The trial, which is in its fifth week, continues.

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