JURORS in the trial of four men accused of assaulting pupils at a South Cumbria residential school have retired to consider their verdicts.
The men are on trial at Carlisle Crown Court amid allegations they used violence against boys at Underley Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale, during the 1970s and 1980s.
Former school owner Derrick Cooper, 77, of Hillberry Green, Douglas, Isle of Man, denies six actual bodily harm assault charges and also two child cruelty allegations.
Three ex-staff members each deny one actual bodily harm assault charge. They are James Robert Farish, 58, of Oakwood, Kendal; David Hadwin, 71, of Raygarth Gardens, Kirkby Lonsdale; and Trevor Taylor, 75, of Lower Park Royd Drive, Sowerby Bridge.
Over six weeks, a jury has heard conflicting accounts as witnesses gave evidence.
A number of ex-pupils claimed Cooper – a former England volleyball player – assaulted or humiliated them; some spoke of being “kicked” and “slapped”, while one claimed he was “head-butted”.
But, giving evidence, Cooper insisted the alleged violence “didn’t happen”. One ex-pupil called by the defence described Cooper as a “big friendly giant”, and stated: “The staff were great.” Farish, Hadwin and Taylor each denied committing any alleged assaults on boys.
Today (MON), Judge James Adkin summed up the evidence to a jury of seven women and five men. “The main issue in this case is: can you be sure that any of these events happened?” Judge Adkin said. “If you think these events were – or may have been – fabricated then your verdicts should be verdicts of not guilty.” The judge stated: “There are competing arguments here that you are going to have to navigate.”
This afternoon, the jury was sent home by Judge Adkin. Deliberations are due to resume tomorrow morning.