Special school head gets 12 years’ jail for abusing boys (13.4.91)

The Independent, 13th April 1991

A HEADMASTER who preyed sexually on boy pupils was jailed yesterday for 12 years.

Ralph Morris was told he had betrayed his principles, his profession and his wife. The sentence marked the outrage felt by the public about child abuse, Mr Justice Fennell added at the end of a lengthy trial.

Morris, 47, who abused eight boys over a four-year period, denied at Shrewsbury Crown Court charges alleging indecent assault, serious sex offences and physical assault on boys at the school he ran at Ludlow, Shropshire.
He was head of Castle Hill School, to which local authorities sent problem boys, some of them already victims of sexual abuse, at fees of up to £19,000 a year.

He was sentenced to 10 years on each of five counts of buggery, to run concurrently; five years on three charges of indecent assault, also to run concurrently, and two years, to run consecutively, for assault on one boy, causing actual bodily harm.

The judge said he was satisfied that when boys arrived at the school they confided their innermost secrets to Morris.
He told Morris: ”I believe it was in that way that you learned who might respond to your seductive approaches. It was a gross breach of trust because you had been entrusted with children who had special problems – education, social and behavioural – children who had come from broken homes and from no homes.

”I am equally clear on the evidence that once you had begun your campaign of seduction you rewarded your favourites by making them your ‘republican guard’ with the task of imposing your will and imposing discipline while you continued to maintain corruption over the boys from 1984 until 1988.

”To have seduced and corrupted eight pupils over a period of four years is a terrible thing.

”What makes the case worse in my judgment is that you were paid enormous fees by local authorities – between pounds 16,000 and pounds 19,000 a year for each pupil – to look after vulnerable and under-privileged children. Instead of doing that you corrupted them and enjoyed half the gross proceeds of over £300,000 a year which went to you or your partner.” He said some of the boys ”will have difficulty in leading a normal life”.

The judge did not pursue a suggestion yesterday that he might call for an inquiry into the case. But he said: ”It would be a tragedy of the highest order if lessons are not learned from this case.”

Michael Hennessey, Shropshire’s social services director, said: ”I think the message for local authorities is to look carefully where they are placing children.”

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