Former school workers given total of 28 years in jail for long campaign of abuse

Two former employees at a residential school have been jailed for a second time for multiple charges of physical and sexual abuse of former pupils.

Matthew George, 73, and John Muldoon, 69, both from Ayrshire, were found guilty after a six-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow. 

Unusually for such a large case, none of the 28 victims, all of whom are now adults, appeared in court in person.  Instead, skilled prosecutors from COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) presented their pre-recorded video testimony. 

Former art teacher, George, and ex-care worker, Muldoon, physically and sexually abused children in their care while they were both employed at Kerelaw Residential School in Stevenston, Ayrshire. 

The pair had previously been jailed in 2006 having been found guilty of a number of similar offences in relation to pupils at the same school. 

After more complainers came forward they stood trial again, appearing at the High Court in Glasgow at the end of last year (2022). 

The men were found guilty of a total of 55 new charges – George of 39 of these while Muldoon was convicted on 16. 

The offending covered a 28-year period – from 1975 until 2004 - with 20 male victims and eight female victims. 

Twenty-one complainers gave ‘evidence by commissioner’, a special measure which enables vulnerable witnesses to have their evidence filmed in advance of the trial under judicial supervision.  

The High Court heard 29 hours of video testimony from these victims over the course of the trial.  Some victims spoke for more than three hours as they recounted their experiences. 

Six victims died before having the opportunity to take part in the filming process and another was too unwell to give pre-recorded evidence.  

However, COPFS prosecutors were able to utilise their prior police statements.  The words of these victims were read to the court to ensure their evidence was also available for the jury. 

The Crown also reviewed nearly 13,000 pieces of documentary evidence in preparation for trial. 

Both George and Muldoon had worked for many years at Kerelaw, then known as a ‘List D’ secure establishment for vulnerable or troubled youngsters. 

Their offending continued until they were suspended from work, a short time prior to the school’s eventual closure. 

At the High Court in Dundee today (13 Jan 23), Matthew George was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. 

John Muldoon was jailed for 12 years. 

Fraser Gibson, Scotland’s Procurator Fiscal for High Court Sexual Offences, said the case demonstrated the Crown’s commitment to ensuring the voices of victims were heard. 

He said: “The two accused were in positions of trust for many years. They abused that trust over and over again. 

“The victims bravely came forward to tell what happened to them in childhood within a school environment where they should have been safe.  They endured traumatising experiences which damaged their adult lives. 

“Our skilled prosecutors were able to use special measures for these vulnerable witnesses, to ease as much as possible, the process of giving evidence. 

“At COPFS we are determined to use every tool at our disposal in the pursuit of justice and to support victims through the system in every way we can. 

“I would urge any victim of similar offending, no matter how long ago, to come forward, report it and seek help.”