[T]HE former owner of a South Cumbria residential school has been found guilty of two charges – and acquitted of six others.
Verdicts in the case of 77-year-old Derrick Cooper – who for more than two decades ran Underley Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale – were delivered by a jury foreman at Carlisle Crown Court today (TUES). These followed a trial lasting several weeks, and deliberations by jurors of more than 24 hours.
Cooper had denied six assault allegations and two charges alleging cruelty of boys at his school during the 1970s and 1980.
He was convicted on a majority verdict of assaulting one pupil, who told jurors how the owner had “head-butted me”, “gave me a few kicks around the body”, and “tried to put his fingers in my eyes”.
Cooper was also found guilty, unanimously, of cruelty towards a second child. That ex-pupil told the jury he was subjected to violence in a dining hall which left him bloodied; and forced to wear only a towel to sleep in a below-freezing corridor.
Jurors found Cooper not guilty of alleged assaults on three boys and acquitted him on a further charge alleging cruelty towards another youngster.
In evidence, Cooper said he had not been responsible for any violent acts at a school for “maladjusted” boys he had intended to be “different and better” than others of its type.
After learning that jurors were unable to reach verdicts on a further two assault allegation charges faced by Cooper, they were discharged by Judge James Adkin.
Cooper, of Hillberry Green, Douglas, Isle of Man, will be sentenced for two offences at the crown court on April 26.
In the meantime he was granted bail by Judge Adkin.
Judge Adkin said “all options” would be open at the sentencing hearing.
Upon hearing that the prosecution would not seek a re-trial on the two outstanding charges, nor offer any evidence, Judge Adkin entered not guilty verdicts.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “The two victims in this case were vulnerable children who were cruelly treated by the very person who had been entrusted to care for them.
“This was home for these young victims and should have been a place where they felt safe and nurtured; instead they were subjected to cruelty and assault. Such abuse can have a long-lasting emotional impact, which lasts into adulthood.
“Adults with any issues or concerns can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. Children and young people can call Childline on 0800 1111, or get help online at www.childline.org.uk.”