School apologises for giving good job reference to sexual predator teacher

Scotland’s oldest boarding school has apologised for exposing children to danger after giving a good job reference to a serious sexual predator.

Loretto School in Musselburgh, East Lothian, provided a positive reference for French teacher Guy Ray-Hills in the late 1960s as well as publishing a “gushing memorial” article celebrating him in the school magazine, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry heard.

Ray-Hills was a serial sexual abuser of multiple boys in the 1950s and 1960s and “headmasters that chaired his tenure could only have been aware of what was going on”, inquiry counsel Andrew Brown QC said on Thursday.

Angela Grahame QC, for Loretto, apologised for its “serious failure” in giving him a reference in 1968, which “put other children in danger”.

She said: “Whispers may have been heard but were often overlooked, there was a lamentable lack of curiosity.

“One boy reported the abuse to his mother but there is no evidence of an investigation or a police investigation.

“By failing to address the problems, the school did nothing to encourage further disclosures.

“There is no evidence support was provided for the children and no evidence of communication with parents.

“No references should have been provided and certainly not one that failed to mention serious child protection issues.

“This put other children in danger and was wrong.

“Loretto will never stop learning lessons. It continues to acknowledge the abuse and bullying that children suffered in school.

“Those who have suffered life-long trauma cannot be ignored.”

Scottish film director Don Boyd wrote a piece in the Observer in 2001 revealing he was a victim of Ray-Hills, and later compared his predatory ability to charm and manipulate to Hollywood mogul and sex criminal Harvey Weinstein.

Ray-Hills was charged with sexual offences in the early 2000s but the case was dropped due to his ill health and he died a short time later.

Ms Grahame said Loretto has “changed beyond all recognition” and is now a “wonderful place” where “children are listened to and treated with respect”.

Elsewhere, Lady Smith, chairing the inquiry, said she will delay publishing her findings relating to schools linked to the English Benedictine Congregation including Carlekemp in North Berwick and Fort Augustus Abbey in the Highlands.

She said: “After giving careful consideration to certain current circumstances, I have with considerable reluctance decided not to publish them at the moment, even though I am in a position to do so and am very keen to do so.

“I do want to stress that these circumstances have not been created by the inquiry.”

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The inquiry has previously heard pupils at schools linked to the religious order were “robbed of their childhoods” due to physical and sexual abuse under “brutal regimes involving excessive punishment”.

Loretto School, founded in 1827 and set in 85 acres of leafy and spacious rural grounds six miles outside Edinburgh, currently charges boarding fees per term of between £7,750 and £11,900.

It counts broadcaster Andrew Marr and former chancellor Alistair Darling among its former pupils.

Separately, Morrison’s Academy, the former school of film star Ewan McGregor, apologised to former pupils who had been physically and emotionally abused between the 1950s and 1990s.

Its lawyer Duncan Hamilton said the school, in Crieff, Perthshire, is now “far removed from the school described in evidence”.

He added: “It has at its core a commitment to child safety. The school of 2021 is unrecognisable from the school of the 1950s.”

Meanwhile, inquiry lawyer Mr Brown QC said several more applicants have come forward with their experiences of abuse following press coverage of proceedings.

The inquiry is due to resume later this year after it moves to new premises in central Edinburgh.