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Thursday, 17 April 2014

SEX ASSAULT PRIEST JAILED

Piers Grant-Ferris: On the sex offenders register

BY STAFF REPORTER

A FORMER Workington priest has been jailed for two years after he admitted 20 counts of indecent assault on 15 young boys at a prep school.

Father Piers Grant-Ferris, 72, assaulted boys under 12 when he was a teacher at Gilling Castle Preparatory School in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, between 1966 and 1975. He was sent to serve in Workington three years later in 1978 – despite admitting to Ampleforth College that he had abused young boys.

The college admitted it was aware of his behaviour 30 years ago but the matter was not reported to police and Grant-Ferris was sent to Workington to fill a post as an assistant priest. He remained there until 1989.

Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday that he was arrested and charged after a police probe into Ampleforth Abbey, which is attached to the country’s leading independent Roman Catholic School, Ampleforth College.

Gilling Castle Prep School was used as a feeder school by the college.

The offences occurred while Grant-Ferris, who the children saw as “a bit of a crackpot”, was a second year form master at the school.

Grant-Ferris punished the boys by smacking and fondling them and some of his young victims thought there were occasions when he gained sexual gratification from the punishments, the court heard.

The assaults took place in various places around the school, including the bathroom, the defendant’s bedroom and in woods nearby.

Mr Goss said one boy described Grant-Ferris’s assaults as “terrifying and humiliating” while another said the defendant had “wrecked his life”.

Another victim said he was left with a feeling of “terrible confusion and bewilderment” and another boy said he had been left with “repressed sexual urges” and had experienced difficulties in his marriage.

Patrick Cosgrove QC, defending, said he had received 3,500 letters of support for Grant-Ferris, including one from a victim of the abuse which said the monk had “helped him”.

Mr Cosgrove said there was no way of knowing whether Grant-Ferris had caused all the victims’ “problems” as at least one of them had suffered “much more serious abuse” by a member of lay staff at the school who has since died.

Mr Cosgrove said that in his client’s autobiography, Grant-Ferris wrote he suffered “severe emotional deprivation” in his early years and was indecently assaulted in the same way as he indecently assaulted the boys under his supervision.

He thought he was carrying on a “timeless set of traditions” until the outside world intervened.

In Grant-Ferris’s autobiography, he wrote: “I never had the slightest intent to cause any harm to any of my pupils. I simply failed to understand that my behaviour was so serious and so upsetting to the victims.

“I’m very sorry for the harm I have caused to a number of boys in my care.”

Judge Ian Dobkin also ordered Grant-Ferris to be registered on the sex offenders register for 10 years and banned him from working with children until further notice.

Seven further offences, which Grant-Ferris denied, will remain on file.

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