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Castle Hill

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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The Guardian, 13th April 1991

THE Department of Education, which is setting in place new controls to prevent child abuse in special schools, said yesterday that remarks made by Mr Justice Fennell in Shrewsbury would be studied to see if further changes were needed.

The new controls, which have taken taken more than two years to prepare, aim to improve protection for more than 6,000 children attending private special schools not previously subject to many requirements guarding state pupils.

The judge said it would be a tragedy of the highest order if lessons were not learnt from the Ralph Morris case.

But he did not pursue the threat he made on Thursday to call for a government inquiry into the case after he heard Frank Chapman, prosecuting, provide answers to the questions he had raised.

‘The reason I raised these points is that it would be a grave scandal if we did not learn to make sure that this situation never comes about again,’ Mr Justice Fennell said.

On the issue of Mr Morris claiming bogus degrees, Mr Chapman said the proprietor of a private school did not have to have any qualifications. So the form on which Morris made the claims was not checked.

On the school’s £300,000 gross profits, he said it was not for the local authority to inquire into the profits made by private schools.

The school had more pupils than it was licensed for. Mr Justice Fennell said an Ealing comedy situation arose when it was known that the school would be inspected – with boys carrying out beds from the school. Castle Hill school, was closed within three months of Mr Morris’s arrest in April 1989.

The Department of Education new measures include making head teachers and owners responsible for ‘safeguarding and promoting’ pupils’ welfare under the new Children’s Act. Schools judged poor in checks by social services inspectors could face closure.

Tighter vetting of school staff will bring private schools into line with the state sector. Schools could be closed if proper checks are not made with the DOE and police.

Public concern at physical and sexual abuse of private boarding school pupils has been raised by a number of allegations and court cases.

The owner and a teacher at Crookham Court school, Berkshire, were each jailed for 10 years last July after allegations made on BBC TV’s That’s Life programme. A confidential Childline telephone counselling service for abused private school pupils was introduced with government support in January.

Dick Davidson, deputy director of the Independent Schools Information Service (Isis), which represents 1,400 of the 2,500 private schools, said Childline was particularly useful because it allowed pupils to ‘blow the whistle’ on abuse.

‘But despite the new measures there is no guarantee cases like Castle Hill will not happen again,’ he said. Castle Hill was not a member of Isis.

Fees of most children at private special schools are paid by local authorities because of a shortage of state school boarding places for disturbed children.

The Times (London), 13th April 1991
by David Young

A HEADMASTER who indecently assaulted boy pupils, some of whom had been sent to his school because they had been the victims of sexual abuse, was jailed yesterday for 12 years. Ralph Morris was told that the offences represented a betrayal of his principles, his profession and his wife and that the sentence marked the outrage felt by the public about child abuse.

Morris, aged 48, who was convicted at Shrewsbury crown court of abusing eight boys in his care over a four-year period, denied a list of charges alleging indecent assault, serious sex offences and physical assault on boys at Castle Hill school, Ludlow, Shropshire. He was head of the school, to which local authorities sent problem boys at fees of up to £19,000 a year.

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

Mr Justice Fennell said: ”It is necessary to mark the public outrage at these offences of child abuse by a man who was in a trusted position and receiving substantial financial reward for the care of vulnerable and deviant children by a long prison sentence. Justice and the protection of the young demands nothing less.”

He said that he gave Morris credit for having been of good character up to 1984. He accepted that Castle Hill school had at first been well run but said that Morris had become more and more domineering.

The judge said he was satisfied that when boys arrived at the school they confided to Morris their innermost secrets, enabling the headmaster to identify those who might respond to his approaches. That was a gross breach of the trust placed in him to care for children with special problems.

”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.” He went on: ”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 £16,000 and £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.

”It is difficult to think of a more serious crime than the violation of young boys in this way. I have no medical evidence as to whether they will suffer permanent damage but it is clear having listened to 24 of them that at least some were corrupted by your action and will have difficulty in leading a normal life.”

The judge did not pursue a suggestion made on Thursday that he might call for a government enquiry into the case, but said: ”It would be a tragedy of the highest order if lessons are not learnt from this case. I have to remember that I have not been conducting an enquiry. But the reason I raised these points is that it would be a grave scandal if we did not learn, to make sure that this situation never comes about again.”

The Independent, 12th April 1991

A JUDGE said last night that he was considering calling for a government inquiry after the former headmaster of special school was convicted of eight sex offences against boy pupils.

Mr Justice Fennell is expected to pass sentence today on Ralph Morris, 48, former head of the private Castle Hill special school at Ludlow, Shropshire.

The judge said that before sentence was passed there were questions he hoped the prosecution would be able to answer about the way the school had been run and what steps could be taken ”to ensure that nothing like this, so far as is humanly possible, ever comes about again”.

He also wanted to know whether the Department of Education and local education authorities realised when they entrusted ”vulnerable” children to the school that it was making a profit of £300,000 a year.

The judge said that if his questions were not answered he would ”invite” Kenneth Clarke, the Education Secretary, ”vigorously to investigate how these matters could come about”.

Morris, a former monk who is married and lives in Ludlow, was convicted of five charges of buggery, three of indecent assault and one of physical assault after a three-month trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court.

He was cleared of one charge of indecent assault, and the judge ruled that four charges of buggery and two others of indecent assault should lie on the file because the jury could not decide verdicts.

The charges against Morris, who received £50,000 a year, involved 15 boys aged between 11 and 16 between 1984 and 1989.

The Department of Education said it would wait until proceedings ended before deciding whether to comment on the case.

The Guardian, 12th April 1991

A JUDGE last night threatened to call for a government inquiry after the head of a pounds 16,000 a year private special school in Shropshire was convicted of a range of sex offences against boy pupils.

Ralph Morris, aged 48, was found guilty of eight offences at Castle Hill school, Ludlow, which housed boys who had been sexually abused or with social and behaviour problems.

Mr Justice Fennell told Shrewsbury crown court that before he passed sentence he hoped the prosecution would be able to answer questions about the way the school had been run. They included what steps could be taken ‘to protect vulnerable children.’

The judge told Frank Chapman, prosecuting, that if his questions were not answered he would ‘invite’ the Education Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, to investigate. Mr Justice Fennell is expected to pass sentence today.

Mr Morris was convicted of five charges of buggery, three of indecent assault and one of physical assault at the end of the three-month trial.

He was cleared of one charge of indecent assault. The judge said four charges of buggery and two of indecent assault should lie on the file because the jury could not decide verdicts. The charges involved 15 boys aged between 11 and 16.

The Independent, 11th April 1991

A FORMER monk who became the headmaster of a special school for boys was found guilty yesterday of sex offences against pupils.

A jury found Ralph Morris, 48, guilty of four charges of buggery and one of indecent assault on boys aged between 11 and 16, and acquitted him on one charge of indecent assault.

The jury at Shrewsbury Crown Court was sent to spend its third night in a hotel after failing to agree verdicts on nine other sex charges, and one of assault, against the £50,000-a-year head of Castle Hill School at Ludlow, Shropshire. All yesterday’s guilty verdicts were by majority decisions after the jury had deliberated for a total of 22 hours spread over three days.

Morris, a married man, of Lower Corve Street, Ludlow, pleaded not guilty to all 16 charges involving 15 boys at the start of the three-month trial.

Frank Chapman, for the prosecution, said the charges were a sample of many serious allegations made against Morris. Twenty-four boys gave evidence against him from behind a special screen set up in the court, but 44 had made allegations.

Mr Chapman said: ”This was a form of homosexual rape.” The court was told the boys were often asked to take tea and toast to Morris at sleeping quarters in the school, which is now closed. They were then sexually abused.

Morris told the trial he was seriously ill with secondary cancer and had been impotent since 1983. Neither Morris nor his wife, Barbara, 34, showed any reactions after the verdicts were returned.

Castle Hill catered for boys with behavioural and social problems. They were sent there by local authorities from all over the country and fees were £16,000-a-year – twice those of Eton or Harrow.

At least 12 of the boys, referred to the school by the council at Harrow, north London, have begun civil proceedings for compensation against Morris.

The Times (London), 12th April 1991
by Tom Giles

A JUDGE said last night that he was considering calling for a government enquiry after the head of a special school was convicted of eight sex offences against boy pupils.

Mr Justice Fennell is expected to pass sentence today on Ralph Morris, aged 48, the former headmaster of the private Castle Hill school at Ludlow, Shropshire.

The judge said that before sentence was passed he hoped that the prosecution would be able to say why it was not discovered that Morris had lied about having academic degrees. He also wanted to know what steps could be taken ”to ensure that nothing like this, so far as is humanly possible, ever comes about again”.

Morris, a former monk, was convicted of nine charges including five of serious sexual assault at the end of a three-month trial at Shrewsbury crown court. He was cleared of one charge of indecent assault and the judge ruled that six other charges should lie on the file because the jury could not decide verdicts. The charges involved 15 boys aged between 11 and 16 between 1984 and 1989.

Frank Chapman, for the prosecution, told the court that the charges were a sample group. Forty-four boys made allegations against Morris and 24 gave evidence.

The court was told that the school was for boys with social and behavioural problems. Fees, which were paid by local education authorities across the country, ranged from £16,000 to £19,000 a year. Some pupils were sent there because they had been sexually abused.

Yesterday, the judge said he wanted to know whether the education department and local education authorities realised when they entrusted ”vulnerable” children to the school that it was making an annual £300,000 profit.
He told Mr Chapman that if his questions were not answered he would invite the education secretary ”to investigate how these matters could come about”.

Morris, who is married, received £50,000 a year from the school, which he opened in 1981 after working as a care assistant at a school at Tenbury Wells, Hereford and Worcester. The court was told that he carefully examined the records of each boy to identify those that he felt could be susceptible to his advances. He maintained order through the two toughest boys, who were prefects known as ”top dogs”. They used a select group of other boys, called ”joeys”, to frighten the remaining 50 into obedience. Boys who stepped out of line or tried to complain about the sex abuse were beaten.

Morris survived three complaints investigated by detectives before an enquiry by police and social workers disclosed the truth. It was later found that he had discredited boys who made allegations against him and that at least one had been attacked by prefects. A detective who worked on the case said: ”He was simply able to terrify the wits out of the kids.”