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
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor