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'Screaming was pointless,' survivors tell of school abuse by Christian Brothers

Pupils were sexually and physically abused at St Ninian's school in Fife

The Christian Brothers were meant to be men of God - a religious order within the Catholic Church.

At their St Ninian’s school in Fife, though, two of the Brothers were men of unspeakable cruelty who stole innocence from children and left the deepest scars.

John Farrell and Paul Kelly were today convicted of 11 counts of sexual and physical abuse against six children in their care. Children as young as 11. The pair were doing it with impunity through the 1970s and 80s.

Survivors of their crimes told me how they did it.

“There was a strategy of ‘good cop, bad cop,” says one man who doesn’t want to be identified. “Kelly would go out of his way to be horrible to me - scare me, punish me. We were children in care so we were alone - just scared wee boys.

John Farrell (top right) and Paul Kelly were found guilty

“Then Farrell would step in. He’d put an arm round you and and act like your best pal. He’d invite you to go into his room to help him with a chore and then he’d tell you to spend the night with him. That’s how he got me in. Then he started touching me."

There was no point in shouting or screaming because nobody would hear you.

And if they did hear you they’d know what was going on, so screaming was pointless.

– St Ninian's abuse victim

Until now Farrell and Kelly have been free men, walking the streets with a clean record. Those they abused, however, told me they have been prisoners of their torment for more than three decades.

John Farrell (left) and Paul Kelly outside court

Some have suffered mental health problems, others alcoholism.

Another former St Ninian’s pupil explained to me how he still suffers. “This has an affect on your whole life,” he says. “It’s affected every single relationship I’ve had as an adult. There are nightmares, flashbacks. It never leaves you.”

St Ninian’s school in Fife Credit: Jim Bain

The Christian Brotherhood has a particularly grim record of child abuse. They’ve paid out millions of pounds to victims after thousands of allegations emerged in Ireland, America, Canada, and Australia.

This, however, is the first conviction of Christian Brothers in Scotland. As yet there has been no apology from the Brotherhood for these crimes.

A former St Ninian's pupil speaks to Scotland correspondent Peter Smith Credit: ITV News

While Farrell and Kelly face prison time when they are sentenced, there are others who say they were abused at St Ninian’s by men who have never been prosecuted.

David Sharp told me he was taken to Ireland to be passed around for abuse at parties.

Former pupil David Sharp is campaigning for justice

I am still campaigning for justice. This only scratches the surface.

Until these people, the perpetrators, are caught, justice is done, and the Christian Brothers and the Catholic Church come out and show a meaningful apology then I can’t get on with my life.

– David Sharp

Farrell and Kelly used to brag to their victims that no one would listen to them against men of God. Today, after more than three decades, the survivors of the St Ninian’s abuse were at last heard.

Picture of the former school: Jim Bain