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Edinburgh Academy abuse survivors take on Everest to raise money for NSPCC

Abuse survivors who attended the same school as broadcaster Nicky Campbell are set to climb Everest in a bid to raise money for charity.

Former pupils of Edinburgh Academy are to take on the challenge of scaling the world’s highest mountain in aid of child protection charity the NSPCC.

Giles Moffatt, 51, one of those taking part in the trip, described it as being “part climbing, part fundraising, part therapy”.

It comes after he gave evidence in a special “examination of facts” hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, which resulted in the court ruling former Edinburgh Academy teacher John Brownlee inflicted “cruel and unnatural acts” on pupils at the school.

Mr Moffatt, who lives in Rye, East Sussex, is one of 12 members of Team Uprising who will trek 150 kilometres at ultra-high altitude.

He and fellow Edinburgh Academy abuse survivors Neil MacDonald and Neil Russell, along with friends and supporters Andy Leslie and Mitch Smith, then plan to undertake an ice climb to the 6,119-metre summit of Lobuche, near the Everest base camp.

Mr Moffatt and Mr Leslie will carry on from there through the Himalayas, with the help of mountaineer and guide Ang Tshering Lama – who has climbed Everest five times – with the aim of reaching the mountain’s summit by the end of May.

Mr Moffatt said he and other survivors “want to use our own negative childhood experiences to help other children who have been abused, and those who may be at risk, and raise awareness of the wide-ranging and long-lasting impact of childhood abuse”.

The cash they raise will go towards supporting NSPCC’s work, which includes providing free counselling for children, an adult helpline for reporting concerns, and educational programmes aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect.

Team Uprising members, left to right, Glen Massam, Nial Mackinlay, Giles Moffatt, Neil Russell and Graeme Sneddon, while training for the trek in Scotland (Mitchell Smith/NSPCC/PA)
Team Uprising members, left to right, Glen Massam, Nial Mackinlay, Giles Moffatt, Neil Russell and Graeme Sneddon, while training for the trek in Scotland (Mitchell Smith/NSPCC/PA)

Mr Moffatt said: “Childhood abuse causes mental health problems, addictions, self-harm, low self-worth, anxiety, relationship and work problems throughout life.”

“This trip is part climbing, part fundraising, part therapy.

“We can’t change our past, but we can do something to prevent other children from experiencing the horrors that we endured.

“We want a zero-tolerance of any form of abuse of children and hope to inspire others to have the courage to speak up and seek support.”

Mr Russell gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry last year about his experiences of abuse at Edinburgh Academy, which he described as a “violent place”.

The 67-year-old, who lives in Bedfordshire but plans to move to Perthshire this year, said incidents of abuse at the school “have haunted me and tormented my mind throughout my life”.

Broadcaster Nicky Campbell spoke about his experiences at Edinburgh Academy at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry last year (Jane Barlow/PA)
Broadcaster Nicky Campbell spoke about his experiences at Edinburgh Academy at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry last year (Jane Barlow/PA)

He added: “The habitual and extreme violence have stayed with me.”

Following the examination of facts hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, which was held because Brownlee is not medically fit to stand trial, the court ruled he had committed a number of violent assaults spanning 31 charges, including “cruel and unnatural acts”.

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

Afterwards, Campbell, who also gave evidence at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, described the ruling as “vindication” for victims.

He added: “All we wanted was for people to say ‘that did happen, and it should not have happened and it was wrong’.”

Donations to Team Uprising can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/team/uprising.