Published 07.12.15

Last updated 05.03.16

Teacher found guilty of indecent exposure at top private school in Edinburgh gets absolute discharge and is still in classroom

Sunday 21 February 2016

A teacher found guilty of sexual offences at a top private school in Edinburgh is still working in classrooms with children at another school in England.

Gordon Cruden, who taught at the exclusive Merchiston Castle, exposed himself in front of teenage boys at the school but escaped any punishment in December after a trial despite being found guilty.

He was given an absolute discharge by the sheriff and continues to work as a French teacher at Bloxham school in North Oxfordshire.

Police Scotland confirmed last year that officers had launched a probe into claims of historical abuse of pupils at Merchiston Castle.

It is the only all-boys independent boarding school in Scotland – serving 7 to 18 year olds – and is based in the Colinton area of Edinburgh.

Fees can reach nearly £29,000 a year, which puts the Merchiston Castle at the high end of the market.

Two former male staff members, both in their 60s, were charged as a result of the police investigation.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that one of the men, Cruden, stood trial at Edinburgh sheriff court and was found guilty in December of three charges of indecent exposure at the school covering a period between 1980 and 1985.

The languages teacher, now 62, had been accused of knowingly wearing a pair of trousers with a large hole in the crotch and sitting with his legs wide open and exposing his genitals. The incidents were witnessed by three teenage boys.

He was not fined or given a jail sentence, but instead received an absolute discharge by Sheriff Kevin Drummond.

This means no penalty was imposed and no conviction is recorded. He is not on the Sex Offenders Register.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Office for Scotland said Cruden lodged an application to appeal but abandoned the move last month.

Despite being found guilty, he is still a French teacher at Bloxham school, which caters for pupils aged 11 to 18.

His biography states: “Gordon Cruden teaches French across all age groups. He is passionate about rugby, coached the colts (U16) team for many years, and holds weekly touch-rugby ‘Cruden’ training sessions throughout the summer term.

“He is also a Warwickshire Society referee. Before most of the school have risen from their beds, he has organised an early morning swimming practice. He was, for many years, Crake Assistant Housemaster and has always tutored in Crake.”

The school flags up its “Christian values” online and promises to nurture a “compassionate spirit so that our students become a force for good in an ever-changing world”.

Cruden was educated at Edinburgh University and did his teacher training at Moray House.

He swam for Scotland in 1970 and it is believed he joined Merchiston Castle in 1977 as a French teacher.

He rose to Head of Modern Languages, trained the swimming team and edited the school yearbook – the Merchistonian – between 1983 and 1985. However, he was listed as one of two “departures” in the 1986 yearbook.

The article on his career at Merchiston noted how, as House Tutor in the Rogerson East part of the school, his “study was frequently the centre of lively social life”.

The piece added: “He was the first Vice-President of the New Common Room and looked after the interests of the resident batchelors in inimitable style.

“To all the many facets of school life in which he involved himself at one time or another, Gordon brought energy, total commitment, drive, efficiency and vigour.

“Thanks to him, many Merchiston boys were able to develop their talents to an extent that otherwise may not have been possible.”

The article did not mention the reason for his exit, unlike another teacher in the “departures” column who was listed as leaving for a promotion south of the border.

Court papers show that Cruden provided an Edinburgh address for a property in the New Town he owns.

He purchased this flat in 2003 and listed Bloxham School as an address during the sale.

No one answered the door of his properties in Edinburgh or Bloxham on Friday.

A minute of a Warwickshire Society of Referees committee meeting from September last year stated that Cruden was “away on business in Edinburgh”.

The Scottish Court Service said: “In respect of this matter after a trial Mr Cruden was found guilty of 3 charges of indecent exposure. The court then without proceeding to a conviction dealt with the matter in terms of section 246 (3) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 by way of an absolute discharge.

“The impact of this disposal is that although Mr Cruden was found guilty he has not been convicted of the offences libelled.”

A spokesperson for Merchiston Castle School said: “We have cooperated with the police investigations to the fullest possible extent.”

A Bloxham School spokesperson said: “I can confirm that a member of staff appeared at court in Edinburgh in December. The case was granted an absolute discharge and did not result in a conviction. The safeguarding of our students is our utmost priority and all correct procedures were followed throughout.

“In the light of this verdict, and following legal and Local Authority advice, the member of staff returned to work in January. Oxfordshire Safeguarding and Child Protection has since re-examined the case and confirmed it is appropriate for the individual to resume their role.”

The school added that Cruden had declined to comment.

A Crown Office spokesperson said of the second man who had been under investigation by the police: “The Procurator Fiscal has received a report concerning a 69-year-old man in connection with a number of incidents alleged to have occurred in Edinburgh between 1 and 31 March 1977.

“There are currently no proceedings but the Crown reserves the right to raise proceedings should further evidence become available.”

Female charged over abuse allegation at private Merchiston Castle school in Edinburgh

Merchiston Castle School
Merchiston Castle School

Exclusive by Paul Hutcheon, Sun 21 Feb 2016

POLICE have charged a female following an allegation of abuse at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh.

A police spokesperson said: “Police in Edinburgh have arrested and charged a 34-year-old woman following a report of abuse at Merchiston Castle School, which took place in 2015. A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”
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A spokesperson for the Crown Office said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received a report concerning a 34-year-old woman in connection with alleged incidents in January and February 2015. The report remains under the consideration of the Procurator Fiscal.”

Merchiston Castle Website

Merchiston Castle Wiki

Private school pupils could be first to face random drug testing

19 Dec 2010 – Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, where boarding costs up to 25,000 aMerchiston Castle’s current drugs policy allows the school to  …

Edinburgh private school plans to bring in drugs test for pupils.

19 Dec 2010 – Police were called to Merchiston Castle School in the capital on 24 November following the discovery of cannabis in a 15-year-olds study.

Posh school to drug test pupils – The Sun

A POSH private school was blasted last night after it unveiled plans to bring in ‘Army-style’ DRUG TESTS for kids. Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh.

QVS (Queen Victoria School, Dunblane) is open to children of those who have served or are serving in Army, Navy or RAF.Among the top Scottish private schools hit by child abuse allegations are FettesMerchiston Castle School, Fort Augustus Abbey School and Gordonstoun.Detective Chief Inspector Elaine Galbraith, of the Police Scotland Public Protection Unit, said there were no current investigations into any persons connected with Queen Victoria School.

Found HERE


TWO men have been charged in connection with allegations of historical abuse at a top city boarding school.

Police Scotland confirmed they were investigating claims of abuse at Merchiston Castle School in Colinton – Scotland’s only all-boys independent residential school.

Officers said the men, aged 62 and 69 – understood to be ex-staff members – will appear in court at a later date in relation to allegations dating back to the 1960s.

Merchiston Castle follows the English curriculum and charges fees of up to £29,000 a year, making it one of the most expensive schools in the country. With prominent ex-pupils including former international rugby star John Jeffrey and ex-Bank of Scotland chief Sir Peter Burt, the school is considered to be one of the best in the UK for sport as well as boasting a “first-class” academic reputation.

A police spokeswoman said the force was unable to provide details as to what the men were being charged with.

Police Scotland’s Detective Inspector Morag Bruce said: “Police in Edinburgh are carrying out inquiries into claims of historic abuse at Merchiston Castle School, which date back to the 1960s.

“As a result of this ongoing investigation, two men, aged 62 and 69, have been charged and will appear at court at a later date.”

In 2013 long-time Merchiston teacher James Rainy Brown committed suicide after being told police were investigating claims of his “inappropriate conduct” towards pupils at the private school.

The 75-year-old, who had worked at Merchiston for 52 years, hanged himself at his Colinton home shortly after being informed of the probe. After his death, it emerged the teacher had left almost £1 million to the school in his will, with instruction that some of it be used to help pupils who were in financial difficulty.

It is understood claims against him involved lewd and inappropriate comments rather than physical abuse.

Andrew Hunter, headmaster of Merchiston Castle School, said the school was “committed to co-operating fully” with officers investigating claims of abuse.

He said: “We have been offering every possible assistance to Police Scotland as it investigates these historical allegations. The appropriate school records have been made available to the investigating officers and we are committed to co-operating fully in support of their inquiries.

“The welfare and safety of our pupils is the central, over-riding priority at Merchiston and our safeguarding and child protection policies are robust, comprehensive and fully compliant with current Scottish legislation.”

Councillor Jason Rust, who represents Colinton, said the news was “obviously very disturbing and concerning.”

He added: “But it’s positive that this is a situation where charges have been brought and it’s being investigated. We just need to let justice run its course.”

A TEACHER found dead as police investigated claims of “inappropriate conduct” towards pupils left £1 million to the private boys school where he worked.
James Rainy Brown, 75, who had taught for 52 years at Edinburgh’s Merchiston Castle School, hanged himself at his home after being told of the inquiry into his alleged actions.
It has now emerged that Mr Rainy Brown amassed a fortune of almost £1.5m, the bulk of which he bequeathed to the fee-paying school where he both studied and taught. His wealth was mainly made up of stocks and shares worth almost £1m and his £330,000 home.
The veteran teacher, affectionately known by colleagues as JRB, asked for the legacy to be split into three parts.

Found HERE



Found HERE



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It is the latest boarding school to be hit by historic abuse allegations, after Merchiston Castle School, Fort Augustus Abbey School and Gordonstoun.

Police Scotland probe claims female teacher abused pupils at elite private schoolPolice are investigating claims of ‘inappropriate relationships’ between a now former teacher and pupils at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh School

Herald Scotland:
Sun 18th oct 2015

POLICE are probing claims a former female teacher at a top private school in Edinburgh had inappropriate relationships with pupils.

Police are investigating claims of ‘inappropriate relationships’ between a now former teacher and pupils at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh chool

Merchiston Castle, which is already co-operating with an investigation into claims of historical abuse, contacted the single force over alleged behaviour that is said to have occurred more recently.

Earlier this year, the Care Inspectorate “identified concerns about the quality of child protection practice” at the elite school.
The all boys’ independent school for 7-18 year olds is located in the upmarket Colinton area of the Capital and charges up to £29,000 a year in boarding fees.

It follows the English curriculum and has a reputation for producing elite sportsmen.

However, the Sunday Herald revealed earlier this year that Police Scotland had launched a probe into allegations of abuse at the school stretching back to the 1960s.

Two former male staff members, aged 62 and 69, were charged as a result of the investigation.

The action came after reports in 2013 of a long-standing teacher committing suicide after being informed that police were examining allegations of “inappropriate conduct” towards pupils.
James Rainy Brown, who was 75 at the time of his death, had worked at the school for over five decades and hanged himself shortly after being contacted by the police.

It has now emerged that the single force, on top of the historical abuse probe, is also examining more recent claims.

The allegations relate to a former female teacher allegedly having inappropriate relationships with former pupils.

It is understood initial enquiries have been made, but at this time no criminality has been established.

The Care Inspectorate (CI) and other bodies have also been notified of the allegations.

In October last year, the CI and the quango Education Scotland inspected the school and issued a report that flagged up a number of concerns.

The bodies stated that the school should improve in five key areas “as a matter of urgency”.
The report called on the school to clarify and strengthen the roles and responsibilities of key staff involved in safeguarding pupils, and improve procedures relating to staff recruitment, training and disciplinary matters.

Herald Scotland: Police Scotland said that a 58-year-old man was arrested in connection with alleged road traffic offences

The quango also demanded a review of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), so that pupils develop the skills “to keep themselves safe”.

The school was also asked to strengthen leadership “at all levels” in improving safeguarding, as well as communicating how key stakeholders’ views were taken into account when shaping improvements.

In a follow-up report, the Inspectorate found the quality of care and support at the school to be “weak”, but awarded good grades in other categories.

A second inspection by Education Scotland welcomed improvements in some areas, but found there were still “important weaknesses” on how the school met the social, emotional and behavioural needs of pupils.

However, the report noted that the head teacher is “very well respected by the Governing Board, pupils, parents and staff”.

A spokesman for Merchiston Castle School said: “The school has been made aware of allegations concerning a former member of staff. We have passed this information to the police and we understand they are currently making enquiries. We have also notified The Care Inspectorate, Education Scotland, the Registrar of Independent Schools and the General Teaching Council for Scotland.”
A Care Inspectorate spokesperson said: “We identified concerns about the quality of child protection practice at our last inspection but have been working closely with the school and have seen significant improvement since then. We were properly notified by the school of an allegation made recently.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson confirmed enquiries are being made.

High School of Glasgow appoints new rector

Herald Scotland2 Jun 2014
He joined the High School senior management team in 2004 from Merchiston Castle School on Edinburgh where he was housemaster and head of sixth form.

The Edinburgh Reporter9 Feb 2016

Merchiston Castle School has ‘room for improvement’


Merchiston Castle School, where the day pupil fees are £21,495 per year, requires additional support according to Education Scotland.

The school’s Board of Governors with its newly appointed Chair, Gareth Baird, is to work with the Independent Schools Link Inspector to make further improvements and monitor progress.

The latest inspection report demands that the school works on ensuring that pupils feel able to report concerns in a safe environment.

It appears that the report calls for leadership within the school to be strengthened to ensure that child safeguarding improvements are driven forward. But the inspectors also said : “The recent appointment of the skilled and dedicated Deputy Head for Pupil Support has had a clear and positive impact on the life of the school.”

And they were also complimentary about the way that the school now evaluates progress at individual level: “Since the last inspection, senior leaders have implemented a more systematic approach to monitoring and evaluating aspects of the work of the school. This includes establishing a helpful framework for tracking the developments that arise from self-evaluation activities. As a result, staff and leaders are becoming more focused on identifying the impact and added value of their work.”

Another inspection will be carried out within seven months.

The full inspection report can be viewed HERE   (PDF)

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