Court rules ex-teacher abused pupils at Edinburgh Academy

A court ruling that an ex-teacher inflicted “cruel and unnatural acts” on pupils at Edinburgh Academy was welcomed by BBC presenter Nicky Campbell who campaigned for accountability about abuse at the private school.

John Brownlee, 89, a former teacher at the independent school, was found to have inflicted sadistic cruelty and emotional abuse on young boys between 1967 and 1991.

Brownlee was deemed medically unfit to be criminally tried and did not attend any hearings at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, which held an examination of the facts regarding assaults on children aged between eight and 11 years old.

During the hearing, 42 former pupils gave evidence and both the prosecution and defence led evidence which was tested.

Nicky Campbell
Nicky Campbell gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry regarding abuse at Edinburgh Academy (James Manning/PA Wire)

Following the examination of facts, Sheriff Anderson ruled that Brownlee had repeatedly committed a number of violent assaults spanning 31 charges as well as “cruel and unnatural acts”.

Victims and witnesses described habitual use of physical force and mental terror which was inflicted on them.

Brownlee was found to have assaulted some children with implements such as a cricket bat, a snooker cue, a clacken, and a leather strap, which had been alleged during the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry last year.

Boys were slapped, kicked or punched, some of whom were left unconscious as a result of attacks upon them, the court heard.

Brownlee will not be punished following the court proceedings but the Crown Office said the abuse was “now a matter of public record”.

Broadcaster Campbell, 62, who was a pupil at the school between 1966 and 1978, from when he was aged five until he was 17, told the BBC the ruling was a “vindication” for victims.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Campbell said: “It’s as if somebody has told the grown-ups and now, the grown-ups have believed us.

“Today, I have been a 10-year-old boy again, I have been weeping in my wife’s arms.

“Those memories of him are still with me, they come to me in the night. They are with others too.

“Today is a wonderful release. I bear no ill will to the Brownlee family at all. He is not a well man, but all we wanted was for people to say ‘that did happen, and it should not have happened and it was wrong’.”

Katrina Parkes, Procurator Fiscal for historic child abuse said: “The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) consistently and successfully strives to secure justice for those affected by historical abuse.

“Victims have been waiting lifetimes for recognition of the impact of abuse and have shared in their own words how childhood abuse has followed them throughout adulthood.

“John Brownlee has been found to have committed acts of great cruelty, to have terrified those he was entrusted to nurture during his time as a teacher. It is now a matter of public record that such acts were committed by the accused.

“The intimidation of and the use of force upon children, and the protection of those who inflict it, has no place in Scottish society. COPFS remain committed to investigating and pursuing those culpable to seek conclusions.”