Last week I spoke to institutional abuse survivor Cecil Wilson, who after almost four decades, bravely made a formal police complaint about a violent assault carried out by a teacher inside one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious children’s homes.
This June will exactly mark 40 years since Cecil was left with permanent damage to his mouth after Bill Brown – now 74- smashed a set of keys into his face in a fit of rage at Co Down’s Rathgael Training School.
Last week Brown, from Donaghadee, Co Down, was convicted of child cruelty after a District Judge praised Cecil’s honesty in recounting the brutal attack, which evetually left him without an entire row of his top teeth.
I have went into more detail about the court case further down in this post, but one of the most important things I think that should be acknowledged, first and foremost, is just how important Cecil’s case is for victims of institutional abuse here.
The many, many victims who have been left in limbo 15 months after Sir Anthony Hart’s damning report which stated wideapread abuse went on in state run, religious and/or charitable run homes here. And almost 9 months since Sir Anthony Hart appealed to politicians to implement his recommendations, which included compensation, a memorial and a public apology, as “a matter of urgency”.
Cecil’s case shows that even those who only find the courage to come forward about abuss after some length of time can still get justice.
As victims campaigner Martin Adams said:
“Cecil has been very courageous and has remained very dignified throughout his quest for justice.
“His verdict is for all victims”.
Originally published in the Sunday World (March 18, 2018)
THIS is the brave abuse victim who took on a bully boy teacher 40 years after an horrific assault in a notorious children’s home.
Bangor man Cecil Wilson (55) was left scarred for life after cruel PE teacher Bill Brown launched a violent attack on him in Rathgael Training School in 1978.
But it is only this month, four decades on, that the grandfather has got justice over the assault which has left him without a row of his front teeth.
Ards Magistrates Court last week found pensioner Brown, of High Bangor Road, Donaghadee, guilty of child cruelty after hearing how he smashed a set of keys into Cecil’s face in front of other pupils.
The teenage boy, sent to the Co Down institution for delinquency, spent days in hospital after the violent and humiliating attack which still haunts him to this day.
Yesterday he broke his silence over the abuse telling the Sunday World: “I will continue to fight for other victims of Ulster’s institutional abuse scandal.”
Cecil said: “For me nothing really has changed in terms of the damage he done to me, that will stay with me forever.
“But the fact he was convicted is a good thing, and I hope it gives other victims hope that they can still take on their abusers years on.”
Cecil was forced to relive the horrific attack after Brown pleaded not guilty to the charge last Tuesday.
He told how on June 30, 1978 he and other pupils were attending a PE class in the complex when Brown announced that a set of his keys had been stolen.
They were found a short time later by teacher who, after hearing Cecil giggle about the incident, approached him and smashed the keys directly into his mouth with a clenched fist.
As a result the 15 year-old was forced to spend several days in the school’s sick bay and received treatment from an on-site matron and a dentist.
The court was told there were logs of the incident by the matron, and a dentist was also made aware of the assault.
But it was only in 2013 that Mr Wilson came forward and reported the abuse to police after seeing a TV appeal asking for victims of historical institutional abuse to come forward.
A year later the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) concluded that there had been a systematic failure at the Rathgael facility to record physical punishment by some staff on children there.
Other allegations of sickening abuse, including sexual assaults, were also highlighted.
Defence for Brown last week said the teacher “literally could not remember him” being a resident in the school and up until five years ago was “totally unaware of the allegations”.
The lawyer also told the court that during Brown’s career in the school he was suspended after being the subject of a “lengthy investigation”. However he was cleared and later reinstated to his role.
He claimed his client was of “impeccable character” before adding that there were other young males present on that day who he said could have caused Cecil’s injury.
Brown’s lawyer added that it was “not unknown” for individuals to convince themselves over a 40 year period of incidents that did not happen.
However Judge Hamill said he could not believe that Mr Wilson had invented a memory and that a “lack of scintilla of an alternative explanation” of how the 15 year-old sustained the injury, meant he found the defence’s case “hard to swallow”.
He convicted the 74 year-old of a single charge of child cruelty and ordered him to pay a fine of £100, as well as £500 compensation to Cecil.
“What Brown did to me lives with everyday, but it was even more traumatic to have to face him in court, relive the abuse and be called a liar,” the victim told the Sunday World.
“When I look in the mirror I am reminded of what he did because I had to get four of my teeth removed because of the damage he caused.”
He added: “Victims have been waiting now 15 months since the HIA report came out and still haven’t been compensated, the government needs to get its finger out so survivors can be redressed before they all pass away.”
Victims campaigner Martin Adams, who has been supporting Cecil and other victims of institutional abuse, welcomed the verdict against Brown.
He said: “Cecil has been very courageous and has remained very dignified throughout his quest for justice. He takes no glory except that his verdict is for all victims and he has vowed to continue with our campaign to see justice for all.
“I want to send a clear message to those staff tasked to care and comfort vulnerable children, but abused that position to abuse them, we are coming after you all to face justice.”