A former teacher at a childcare institution has described a convicted child abuser as having a “heart of gold” and being a “father figure” to youngsters.
Chris Brown, 77, was giving evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Tuesday when he said he had doubts about allegations against Paul Kelly and John Farrell, who both worked at St Ninian’s in Falkland, Fife.
Farrell, then 73, and Kelly, then 64, were sentenced to five and 10 years respectively in August 2016 for assaulting vulnerable pupils at the home in the late 1970s and 80s.
Mr Brown, who waived his right to anonymity, was at the Catholic-run establishment for around four months from September 1981 and described the religious brothers as being “walking saints” for the “good work” they did at the home.
The witness said: “(Kelly) was kind of a father figure for those kids – they respected him.
“He had such good control, he was a good disciplinarian. He had a heart of gold with them. These are my memories – he didn’t stand any messing.”
On Farrell, he said he would be “surprised” if allegations made against him were true.
The witness added: “I can’t imagine someone being like that with kids, I don’t even know the allegations.”
Farrell, from Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, was jailed for three counts of indecent assault, and Kelly, from Plymouth, Devon, was sentenced to 10 years for four counts of indecent assault and two assault charges.
The men were members of Catholic religious order the Congregation of Christian Brothers, which ran the school.
Mr Brown was also questioned about whether he was aware of children sleeping in Kelly’s room, which he said he was.
He added: “It’s a most unusual situation, you wouldn’t have that nowadays.
“Paul Kelly was a really good person and he would be doing it through goodness and nothing else.”
The witness admitted he had written his statement to the inquiry while he was angered about convictions against the men.
He denied ever being aware of a child being physically punished or sexually assaulted.
Mr Brown said: “In my own mind I have my doubts about their conviction because I know (Kelly) as such a good person – I don’t know him as anything else.”
Meanwhile, another witness recalled asking Kelly about why he looked tired.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, worked at the institution during the early 1980s.
He said: “I said something along the lines of: ‘Did you not get any sleep last night?’
“His reply was ‘you wouldn’t either if you had (the children) in your room all the time’.”
The witness, now in his 60s, added: “I said ‘I don’t think that’s appropriate’.”
St Ninian’s opened in January 1951 and closed in July 1983.
The inquiry, before judge Lady Smith, continues in Edinburgh on Thursday.