Police 'witch hunt' criticised as former school master is cleared of abuse

The case against a former approved school housemaster accused of sexual abuse was thrown out by a judge today - amid stinging criticism of police investigators.

Roderick Ryall's legal team argued he had been subject to a "witch hunt" by police and alleged victims seeking to take advantage of his past convictions for child abuse.



Walking free from Teesside Crown Court, the 68-year-old condemned police handling of the case.



He was alleged to have abused two teenage pupils at Aycliffe Approved School, in County Durham, in the mid-to-late 1960s.



He was also accused of molesting a nine-year-old cub scout in the mid-1970s when he was director of social services in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.



But Mr Ryall's barrister, Tania Griffiths QC, said the complainants had used knowledge of sex offence convictions from 1988 to "jump on a bandwagon" to win compensation.



She branded the latest investigation, by Durham Police, as a farce from start to finish - an accusation that was denied.



She said: "This has been a witch hunt. It has been a trawling exercise, and it is quite unforgivable."



Outside court, his solicitor Chris Saltrese said investigators were relying on the jury's prejudice against a convicted sex offender to win the case.



Mr Ryall had described the charges made against him as "complete and utter rubbish".



Directing the jury of eight women and four men to return not guilty verdicts after they heard two weeks of evidence, Judge George Moorhouse said it had been impossible for Mr Ryall to receive a fair trial.



He said: "I have had submissions made to me to the effect that it is an abuse of process to proceed further with this trial, as a result of which there has been a great amount of publicity.



"I have concluded it would be an abuse of process to proceed further.



"It is clear that the officers conducting the investigation have not conducted themselves in a proper way."



He said an internet search using the keywords 'Ryall 2010' had produced 16,700 hits, including one directing browsers to a Leeds solicitors' website inviting people to make compensation claims against Mr Ryall.



Speaking on Mr Ryall's behalf after he was cleared, Mr Saltrese said: "Our case was that the allegations were complete fabrications.



"The real story in the case was the laziness and incompetence of the police investigation.



"They have simply sought to rely on Mr Ryall's previous convictions and the prejudice that invokes with members of the jury.



"Rather than investigate the matter properly they presented three complainants of extremely poor quality."



Mr Ryall, of Wheatley Drive, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, had denied ten counts of indecent assault on three alleged victims.



The jury has been told that Mr Ryall, who graduated from both Oxford and Cambridge universities, had previous convictions for abusing young people.



In 1988, at Leeds Crown Court, he admitted four offences of indecent assault, two of gross indecency and a charge of buggery.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate