PAST pupils at one of Britain's leading Catholic schools have spoken of their dismay over the way a trial involving a former teacher charged with sexual abuse was handled.

An investigation by The Times newspaper raised questions about the inquiry and subsequent trial last year, involving Paul Sheppard, now 53, a Canadian who taught at Ampleforth College.

He was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of serious sexual offences in 1989 against another pupil, who later committed suicide.

He was due to stand trial last year, accused of seven charges of indecent assault against five former pupils, but the charges involving all but one of the boys were dropped following rulings by the judge.

Judge Colin Burn ruled that the alleged incidences, including when the teacher was said to have stroked and kissed a boy as he slept, did not amount to "circumstances of indecency".

At the trial, Dr Sheppard was found not guilty of indecently assaulting a boy there in 1989.

It has now emerged that jurors were not told there had been more than one complainant, or that Dr Sheppard left his job in 1989 following the allegations. 

One former pupil told the Times his experience with the judicial process had left him “amazed that anyone is ever convicted in a British Court of historical sex offences against children".

He added: “The jury had to choose between the word of an experienced teacher and that of one former pupil."

The Times alleged that two former pupils had had information about further sexual offences, but were not interviewed by the police.

The newspaper has also claimed that a North Yorkshire Police employee told witnesses that they did not need to give evidence in person at the trial of Sheppard, because their written statements had been accepted by the defence, and that this was misleading to the victims.

Commenting on The Times report, Assistant Chief Constable Lisa Winward, said: “This complex investigation spanned two years, and despite considerable police efforts to present a strong case on a number of allegations to the CPS, it was hugely disappointing that not all of these were heard in court.

“We have asked The Times to provide the police with the contact details of the two former pupils who have information, and we also urge them to come forward and speak to us. Until we know who they are, it is not possible to confirm whether or not they were known to the investigation at the time. If offences have been committed involving other pupils, we will investigate them thoroughly.

"If there is new evidence to consider, and new matters to investigate, then we will do so.

“In relation to the allegation that witnesses were misled when they were advised that they were no longer required to attend court, we have launched an internal investigation to establish who spoke to the witnesses regarding their statements.

"Our investigation will look at the timeline of the court proceedings and what was said, in order to establish whether they had been intentionally misled as the newspaper has reported.

“Child abuse is a very distressing crime, and anyone who has been the victim of abuse, no matter when it happened, should come forward to the police. In some non-recent cases we may not be able to pursue justice through the courts, for example when a perpetrator has died, but we can provide victims with support and advice which will help them to come to terms with what has happened, and help them address some of the psychological harm that sexual abuse causes.”

Anyone who has any information should call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

The spokesman said the case was already the subject of a review by senior officers at North Yorkshire Police as part of the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

A spokesperson for Ampleforth College told The Press Paul Sheppard had been employed as a temporary supply teacher by Ampleforth for four months in the Summer Term of 1989.

He was appointed following receipt of references from well-respected institutions and people, including Albert College, Brock University and St Pius X Junior High School.

"Allegations made against him to Father Dominic Milroy were investigated by Fr Dominic at the time. These investigations did not yield allegations of sexual impropriety.  Sheppard left at the end of July 1989 when his supply contract ended.  The decision to leave was mutual.

A reference supplied by the school at the time reflected his performance as a supply teacher during his short time at the school.

Ampleforth has publically accepted its responsibilities for past failings and once again would like to offer its sympathies, prayers and thoughts to all survivors and their families. 

Ampleforth remains committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of each and every pupil in its care. The Safeguarding Co-ordinator of Ampleforth, a specialist ex-police officer, works closely with our Independent Safeguarding Commission; a body that oversees safeguarding at Ampleforth where all relevant statutory authorities are represented.

Ampleforth works with all statutory authorities to ensure safeguarding issues are dealt with appropriately in line with current practice, and has cooperated fully with the police in its investigations.”