Merrick on trial - William Henry Smith School

FORMER assistant headteacher has gone on trial accused of sexually abusing four pupils at a school for boys with behavioural difficulties. Peter Merrick, 66, is alleged to have systematically abused the boys, aged 11 to 15, at the William Henry Smith School in Rastrick over seven years in 1970s and 1980s. Merrick denies 20 charges of indecent assault and two of rape. Matthew Bean, prosecuting at Bradford rown ourt, told jurors the boys’ problems made them difficult to teach, but they had been sent to the school to help them. “The defendant, as a teacher at the school, knew that these were boys who needed care and support,” he said. “The defendant was in a position of particular responsibility and trust and he deliberately abused that position by committing these offences.” He told the court Merrick started working at the school in 1976, and was promoted to become the assistant headteacher in charge of residential care in 1979. He is alleged to have carried out the abuse around the school, including in the headteacher’s room, the shower area, the boot room and his own family’s living area. Merrick is also alleged to have abused one boy while they were on an orienteering trip and to have molested another youngster in his car. It emerged yesterday that police ended their investigation into Merrick after the first complainant came forward back in 1993. That inquiry had uncovered school records detailing an earlier complaint by one of the other boys. Mr Bean told the court Merrick was arrested, but police decided to stop the investigation after he denied the offences. About 15 years later, a new inquiry began after police were contacted by solicitors representing people making claims against the school for physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The first two complainants were spoken to again and a third alleged victim also came forward. Merrick maintained his denials but was charged. A fourth complainant then came forward earlier this year after seeing a newspaper report of the case. Mr Bean said all four men were still deeply affected by the alleged abuse. He said the complainants had not been friends at school and had not been in regular contact with each other before the investigation. “Each has decided separately to tell the police what the defendant did to them,” said Mr Bean. He said one complainant ran away from the school after Merrick allegedly raped him, but was stopped and sent back by police, and the abuse continued. nother complainant alleged that Merrick began to indecently touch him after sending him to the shower room to take a cold shower as a punishment. The trial of Merrick, now of Overseal, erbyshire, is expected to last about eight days and is currently on it's third day. We would be keen to speak to anybody who attended William Henry Smith School as they may have rise to a civil claim for compensation.


Charles has considerable specialist experience in pursuing claims for compensation for those who have been abused in childhood. His specific expertise means that he is recognised locally, nationally and internationally for his work which has taken him all over the world including, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

He is also recognised for his significant involvement in the high profile litigation against St Georges School (Anglemoss Limited) and Cyntwell High School. These cases involved a staggering number of individuals who pursued those responsible whom despite heavily defending the claims brought against them settled by way of out of court settlements.

Charles regularly features in local and national press and he is often asked to provide his professional opinion and commentary on relevant abuse law issues and developments on radio and television broadcasts. Such broadcasts include BBC South Today, BBC Wales, ITV and ITN News.

Charles is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.

You can follow Charles on Twitter and Facebook.

Charles obtained his Law degree at Kingston University, before successfully completing his Legal Practice Course. He trained and qualified with Verisona Law beginning his specialism in the field of child abuse claims. He received his higher rights of Audience in 2012 making him one of the youngest Solicitor-Advocates in the country who is able to represent his clients in the High Court. Charles is head of the abuse team who collectively have secured compensation for hundreds of victims of abuse.

He began diversifying in to other aspects of abuse law and his team are one of the very few in the country who specialise in claims against social services.

He is involved in complex group action litigation and also represents a number of individuals and who are pursuing private companies, local authorities and perpetrators in pursuit of their justice.

Charles has strong contacts with some of the most prominent barristers who advise on abuse claims including a number of QC’s. He also has robust connections with highly qualified expert witnesses he instructs in support of those who he represents.

  • Child abuse claims
  • Claims against social services
  • Complex/Catastrophic Clinical Negligence claims

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