Man speaks out about abuse at St Camillus residential school

A SELBY man who claims he was abused at a North Yorkshire children’s home says speaking about his experiences has helped him tackle depression.

The 47-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, has suffered so badly from anxiety and depression since the incidents, which happened when he was 16, that he has only just been able to speak about his experiences.

He has spoken to North Yorkshire Police and The Press in the hope that other former pupils of St Camillus residential school can find the courage to come forward.

The man said he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a teacher from the school, in the showers on a number of swimming trips to Leeds.

He said he also was the victim of violent abuse. He said on his first morning at the school he tried to intervene in the breakfast hall when “one of the lads was starting on another lad”.

He said later that day they were called to the office of one of the supervisors, who told them “to go behind the cadet hut and fight”.

When the boys refused, he said “we got a slap each and sent back to the rooms”.

Urging anyone else who suffered sexual abuse to come forward, the man said: “I was in trouble a lot of times when I was young, but I have never had that sort of experience.

“I’ve been slapped about but never messed with. I was there for a reason, for being naughty, but it’s beyond me how they can even think to do stuff like that.”

Police investigated St Camillus more than ten years ago, but the man said he was not ready to talk to them at the time.

Last year he lost his job of 12 years through extended periods of ill-health through anxiety and depression, and said he hoped talking about his experiences would improve his life.

He said: “I tried to talk to my parents about it, but they weren’t sure whether to believe me because I had been in trouble. I was a little tough nut at the time, they wouldn’t think I would let it happen, but these were fully grown men.

“I was just trying to get it out of my head. I just want some closure now, and to find out what happened to those people.”

He said closure “would improve my life, I think it would make me feel better”, and just by speaking to The Press and the police he felt “like there’s a big weight lifted off my shoulders”.

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman praised the man for overcoming his concerns to speak out and encouraged anyone in similar situations to do the same.

He said: “We would like to commend his bravery for coming forward to report an incident which is naturally a traumatic personal experience.

“We hope the courage he has shown encourages other victims to come forward. Anyone who reports abuse can be assured that they will treated sensitively and will receive support from specially trained officers.”

A series of arrests were made in 2001 and 2002 of former staff at the St Camillus residential school in Scarthingwell, near Tadcaster. Several were later jailed for offences including cruelty, serious sexual offences, and indecent assault dating from in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Several members of staff were prosecuted but acquitted, while home manager James Bernard Littlewood was jailed for 13 years for cruelty and sex offences at the home and another in Lincolnshire.

His sentence was later cut to 11 years. The school was closed in 1983, and is now a care home.

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