Teacher cleared of abusing pupil at private school

Ampleforth College
Ampleforth College

A public-school teacher has been cleared of sexually abusing a pupil at Ampleforth College more than 30 years ago.

A jury at York Crown Court found Sean Ambrose Farrell, 50, not guilty of four counts of indecent assault following a three-day trial.

Mr Farrell closed his eyes and wiped away a tear after the jury returned its verdict on Thursday afternoon.

He had emphatically denied sexually abusing the pupil during music sessions at the prestigious fee-paying Catholic school in the North York Moors.

Mr Farrell, of Riddings Road, Ilkley, said he was called in last October by the head teacher at Wellington College, a leading public school in Berkshire, where he taught music, to be told an allegation had been made against him.

He said he “felt sick that anybody could have made an allegation”.

Mr Farrell, an accomplished pianist and organist, strongly denied prosecution claims that he had kissed and performed lewd acts on the boy.

The musical virtuoso, who has performed organ recitals in the United States and was a former organ scholar at York Minster, had been accused of sexually abusing the boy while giving him music lessons in the 1980s.

Mr Farrell was a former pupil at the Ampleforth boarding school and returned there to take up a temporary post as a support teacher.

Prosecutor David Bradshaw claimed that during Mr Farrell’s time in the temporary role, he had kissed the boy on “numerous” occasions throughout the academic year.

Mr Bradshaw said such an act was classed as indecent assault because the boy would have been too young to give consent.

Mr Farrell, who has also worked as assistant organist at cathedrals including Wakefield and Rochester, vehemently denied these allegations and said he had never touched the boy inappropriately.

The pupil did not report the allegations to police until 30 years later.

Mr Farrell, a York University graduate, told police he could not even remember what his accuser looked like.

Teachers who knew him when he was a pupil at Ampleforth College, later as a fellow member of staff, and after he left the junior school, said they had never heard or seen anything about his behaviour with children to concern them and praised his character.

Others who had worked with him as organ scholar or assistant director of music, including Dr Philip Moore, former Master of Music at York Minster, gave similar character references.