‘Witch hunt’ police force is accused of ‘getting swept along by accusations’ as ten former teachers are cleared of assaulting pupils at boarding schools after £2.3million investigation
- Cumbria Police said investigation, ‘Operation Tweed’, will be wound up this week
- Derrick Cooper opened one of the schools involved, Underley Hall in Lonsdale
- Cooper’s, 78, health collapsed after he was wrongly jailed last year for abuse
Derrick Cooper, 78, opened one of the schools involved, Underley Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale, in 1976 and ran it for 30 years
Police have been accused of pursuing a ‘witch hunt’ after ten former teachers were cleared of assaulting pupils at two boarding schools.
Critics claim officers were ‘swept along’ by accusations from ex-pupils, with lawyers claiming they had colluded to concoct bogus allegations of physical abuse and cruelty in the 1970s and 1980s in a bid to win compensation payouts.
Cumbria Police this weekend said their investigation into the claims, codenamed Operation Tweed, will be wound up this week – after costing £2.3 million.
That will come as little consolation to Derrick Cooper, 78, whose health collapsed after he was wrongly jailed last year.
Mr Cooper opened one of the schools involved, Underley Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale, in 1976 and ran it for 30 years.
The Court of Appeal last month quashed his convictions for physically abusing two boys but he had already served almost nine months of a 20-month sentence.
‘The clang of the cell door will haunt me for the rest of my life,’ he said yesterday. ‘The stress was awful. It still is.’
Operation Tweed was launched in 2014 following abuse allegations by a former Underley Hall pupil. The school, which closed in 2012, taught boys aged between seven and 16 with behavioural problems and special educational needs.
Local MP Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, called for Home Secretary Sajid Javid to launch an ‘urgent review’ into Operation Tweed
At least 12 former staff are understood to have been arrested. Six were charged but none convicted. One was too ill to stand trial and later died. Three more were acquitted and a fourth had his case discharged.
Mr Cooper was convicted of actual bodily harm and cruelty, but appeal judges found jurors may have misunderstood key information. The ruling detailed how one ex-pupil had accused Mr Cooper of head-butting him and gouging his eyes, yet there was no medical evidence nor witnesses.
‘The police believed what they were told even before they looked into their accusations,’ said Mr Cooper. ‘They lost any sense of impartiality.’
Bob Currie, a former Metropolitan Police commander, said the case might deter teachers from going into special education
Six former staff at a second boarding school, Witherslack Hall near Grange, were also charged with assault and cruelty offences. Three were cleared and a fourth acquitted before trial. Two men were each convicted of one count of child cruelty.
Bob Currie, a former Metropolitan Police commander, said the case might deter teachers from going into special education.
And local MP Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, called for HomeSecretary Sajid Javid to launch an ‘urgent review’ into Operation Tweed.
Cumbria Police last night said officers had worked ‘diligently and professionally’ and investigated ‘from an entirely objective position’.
The Crown Prosecution Service said cases were brought on the strength of evidence and the public interest.