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Sex scandal: Former Teacher Speaks Out [Operation Aldgate Criticised]

Pocklington Post, 12 February 2010

A FORMER teacher says he wants people to "know the truth" about the abuse scandal surrounding a controversial Market Weighton school.

Noel Hartnett, a former vice principal at St William's Catholic School for Boys, is urging people to read through the recent report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which criticised Humberside Police over the handling of claims of sexual and physical abuse at the school.

Operation Aldgate was launched by the police almost a decade ago and resulted in the conviction of former principal, Brother James Carragher, in 2004 after he admitted sexually assaulting numerous young boys in his care.

But the police investigation was criticised by the complaints commission for a catalogue of failures in which several other members of staff faced allegations, many of which were unsubstantiated.

Mr Hartnett, who spent a total of 23 years working at the home, was charged with child cruelty amidst claims of physical abuse.

He was acquitted in court and a draft copy of the report even suggests that his case should not have been brought to trial.

The 67-year-old said: "People don't have an accurate picture of what went on there. We want people to know the truth.

"I think the one perpetrator (Carragher] at St William's got what he richly deserved. I think there is no doubt he is now in the right place.

"But there were 46 accused and in the end only one was convicted.

"It was not a den of iniquity, far from it."

The home, which closed in 1992, was run by the De La Salle teaching order under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough.

It provided residential care and education for emotionally and behaviourally disturbed boys.

Mr Harntett has lived in Market Weighton since 1965, where more than two dozen other former employees still reside.

Mr Hartnett eventually resigned in 1991 after being accused of assaulting a pupil.

The incident was one of several child cruelty charges he faced at Grimsby Crown Court in 2003, for which he was acquitted of any criminal wrongdoing.

He was to show that medical records and other evidence disproved former pupils' claims against him. The police complaint commission's damning report suggested that from 120 complaints made against staff, 80 were unsubstantiated.

It said Humberside Police failed to investigate an allegation of witness intimidation, had an inconsistent approach to the arrest of individuals and some named suspects were never questioned.

They were also accused of failing to pursue reasonable lines of inquiry which would have help prove or disprove witness and suspects accounts.

"Once people get to read the report, it will all fall into place," said Mr Hartnett.

"We did not complain about trivia, we complained about a fundamental flaw right the way through this whole police inquiry which resulted in a whole load of people being hauled before the courts who should never have been there.

"It is appalling to be sitting there in court thinking that you might get a freak conviction. You would not believe how life has been in the past 10 years, and it doesn't end.

"The impact on people's lives has been enormous."