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Former Underley Hall owner jailed for abusing schoolboys

Photo: ITV Border

The former owner of a south Cumbria private school who physically abused two boys during his time in charge has been jailed for 20 months.

77-year-old Derrick Cooper was sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court today for two crimes against the boys at Underley Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale.

Cooper went on trial earlier this year having denied six actual bodily harm assault charges and two additional allegations of cruelty towards separate pupils at the school he opened for boys with troubled backgrounds.

All charges dated back to the 1970s and 1980s.

A jury convicted Cooper of assaulting one boy, Henry Gow, from Scunthorpe; and cruelty to another, Sean Hann, from Heysham.

Cooper was acquitted of six other charges.

Underley Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale Credit: ITV Border

Mr Gow had told jurors how the six foot-plus owner - a former England volleyball player - head-butted him and "gave me a few kicks". Cooper, he said, also tried to gouge him, saying: "I'll take your eyes out."

Mr Hann told the jury how Cooper turned violent in a dining hall, "slamming" his head against a table and "smashing" it with a dinner tray.

Mr Hann said his blood "got into the meal and all over my face"; and told how on other occasions he was forced to wear only a towel to sleep in sub-zero temperatures.

In a victim impact statement read to today's hearing, Mr Hann described Underley Hall as an "evil, twisted place".

Cooper, a man of previous good character of Hillberry Green, Douglas, Isle of Man, spoke of being "devastated" by the jury's guilty verdicts.

His barrister, Peter Wright QC, asked for Cooper, a man in "poor health", to be sentenced "on the basis of isolated falls from grace". THE former owner of a South Cumbria private school who physically abused two boys during his time in charge has been jailed for 20 months.

Derrick Cooper, 77, was sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court today (THURS) for two crimes against youngsters at Underley Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale.

Cooper went on trial earlier this year having denied six actual bodily harm assault charges and two additional allegations of cruelty towards separate pupils at the school he opened for boys with troubled backgrounds. All charges dated back to the 1970s and 1980s.

A jury convicted Cooper of assaulting one boy, Henry Gow, from Scunthorpe; and cruelty to another, Sean Hann, from Heysham. Cooper was acquitted of six other charges.

Mr Gow had told jurors how the six foot-plus owner - a former England volleyball player - head-butted him and "gave me a few kicks". Cooper, he said, also tried to gouge him, saying: "I'll take your eyes out."

Mr Hann told the jury how Cooper turned violent in a dining hall, "slamming" his head against a table and "smashing" it with a dinner tray. Mr Hann said his blood "got into the meal and all over my face"; and told how on other occasions he was forced to wear only a towel to sleep in sub-zero temperatures.

In a victim impact statement read to today's hearing, Mr Hann described Underley Hall as an "evil, twisted place".

Cooper, a man of previous good character of Hillberry Green, Douglas, Isle of Man, spoke of being "devastated" by the jury's guilty verdicts. His barrister, Peter Wright QC, asked for Cooper, a man in "poor health", to be sentenced "on the basis of isolated falls from grace".

Sentence was passed by Judge James Adkin, who told Cooper: "Using violence towards these children was a "huge breach of trust".