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Defence case under way in Witherslack Hall trial

Roger Whitehouse outside Carlisle Crown Court

THE first of five men on trial and accused of mistreating pupils at a South Cumbria residential school around 40 years ago has been giving evidence to a jury.

Five former teachers at Witherslack Hall, Grange-over-Sands, face charges which allege the physical abuse or cruelty of boys during the 1970s and 1980s while they worked there. All of the men – now aged 62 to 78 – deny the respective charges they face.

The oldest, 78-year-old Roger Whitehouse, began giving evidence to jurors at Carlisle Crown Court today (MON).

Whitehouse, of Sea View, Haverigg, spoke of how he was the first staff member employed at a school for “maladjusted” boys which opened in 1972. It was, he said, the “prospect of improving behaviour” that attracted him to special education.

Whitehouse conceded he was “strict” and “didn’t stand any nonsense”. But he recalled raising his voice to boys only “very rarely”, and denied ever being physically violent.

It is alleged Whitehouse mistreated two different boys during their time at the school. He denies two charges alleging assault and one alleging child cruelty.

Each of the allegations was put to him by his barrister, Kim Whittlestone. When asked whether he was responsible, Whitehouse calmly replied each time: “No.”

Miss Whittlestone, asked: “Have you ever physically or unlawfully assaulted any of the men who have given evidence in this case?”

“No,” Whitehouse replied.

Miss Whittlestone asked him: “Have you ever ill-treated them or been cruel to them in any way?”

Whitehouse responded: “No.”

The trial, now in its fourth week, continues.”

*Jurors heard today that the prosecution would not seek a verdict on a fourth charge faced by Whitehouse – alleging child cruelty – which he had denied.

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