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School master 'carried out string of sex attacks'

An approved school housemaster who became a scout leader and council director of social services carried out a string of sex attacks on vulnerable boys over a period of years, a court heard today.

Rod Ryall, 68, appeared at Teesside Crown Court charged with 10 counts of indecent assault on three alleged victims during the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1988 he pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault, two counts of gross indecency and one of buggery with boys aged 14 to 17, the jury was told.

Ryall studied physics at Oxford University before taking a PhD in criminology at Cambridge and became a housemaster at Newton Aycliffe Approved School, County Durham, in the mid 1960s.

The prosecution alleges he sexually abused two pupils during his time at the school, where boys who had committed criminal offences were housed and educated.

Adrian Dent, prosecuting, said Ryall befriended one victim and allowed him to watch television in the housemaster's quarters, in the lead-up to abuse.

"This was the 1960s and televisions were not that commonplace and certainly not in institutions like Aycliffe School," he said.

"A housemaster allowing a child to watch television would have been regarded as quite a treat at the time."

The boy, aged about 14 at the time but now in his 50s, alleged Ryall made him commit sex acts on the housemaster.

Ryall told the child not to tell anybody what had happened, and the boy felt he would not be believed anyway, Mr Dent said.

Another pupil, slightly younger, said he would be sexually abused after delivering Ryall's breakfast to his living quarters.

By this time the housemaster had left Aycliffe, but returned to work there as part of his criminology studies.

Ryall got the teenager to commit sex acts on him while still lying in bed, the court heard.

Mr Dent said Ryall paid the boy a small amount or gave him cigarettes.

After leaving the school, Ryall worked in the Midlands and Southampton before becoming deputy director of Calderdale social services in West Yorkshire in 1974, the court heard.

He was promoted to director soon after, and at the same time led a scout group in the area.

One cub, aged about nine, was invited to Ryall's home so he could be helped with a project to make a model aeroplane and the visits became regular, the jury heard.

Mr Dent said: "The defendant as time went on became increasingly more friendly and familiar - what these days, the prosecution say, is called sexual grooming."

Ryall and the child would "play fight", the court heard, before Ryall made him commit a sex act. He would be paid a small amount or given sweets, Mr Dent said.

"The boy didn't tell anybody. He did feel uncomfortable about it but he trusted the defendant."

Mr Dent said the younger of the two alleged victims at Aycliffe School first went to police in 2000 and Ryall was interviewed but not charged.

Last year the older accuser also made a complaint and Ryall was rearrested. Then the former cub scout saw Ryall's photograph last September in the Halifax Evening Courier and made a complaint to West Yorkshire Police, the court heard.

Mr Dent said the victims of the offences Ryall admitted in 1988, at Leeds Crown Court, had no link with his work.

"It shows the defendant could be capable of committing such offences as he is now charged with," Mr Dent said.

Ryall, of Wheatley Drive, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, denies all the charges.

The case is expected to last three weeks.

The older of the two Aycliffe pupils told the court it was a brutal place.

Prior to the abuse, he said: "Ryall was a nice part of the experience, he gave you some hope."

After it began, Ryall's victim told the court: "Once you knew what he wanted, you complied.

"I did what he wanted."