Nicky Campbell 'wept' as judge said teacher was an abuser

Nicky Campbell
Nicky Campbell gave evidence at the hearing

Presenter Nicky Campbell said he wept in his wife's arms after a sheriff found a private school teacher abused him and others over a 20-year period.

John Brownlee beat students at Edinburgh Academy with wooden bats and pushed one boy down a flight of stairs during a campaign of physical violence.

Victims described the teacher, now 89, as a "psychopath" and a "sadist".

An examination of facts hearing concluded earlier after he was deemed medically unfit to stand trial.

Mr Campbell, 62, was among a number of former pupils who gave evidence during the hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

He was a pupil at the fee-paying school between 1966 and 1978, from when he was aged five until he was 17.

He recalled Brownlee as an "arbitrarily violent man" who regularly struck students with an 18in (46cm) long paddle known as a "clacken".

He also said Brownlee once forced him to the ground and performed a "knuckle dance" on the back of his skull.

The broadcaster said he felt unable to tell his adoptive parents about the incidents, because he knew they were stretching themselves financially in order to send him to the school.

But Mr Campbell said the sheriff's conclusion was a "vindication" of the abuse he and others suffered at Brownlee's hands.

"It's as if somebody has told the grown-ups and now, the grown-ups have believed us," he said.

"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."

He added: "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'."

Brownlee 'enjoyed' abusing pupils

Other pupils, who were boarders at the school, told the hearing that Brownlee seemed to "enjoy" inflicting pain.

One told how he tripped him at the top of a flight of stairs, causing him to fall down 15 steps.

Another described how a child was punished for having a "dry toothbrush" by being repeatedly thrown into a cold bath, then into a hot shower in front of other pupils.

On one occasion, a pupil, who was 10 at the time, said he was hit so hard in the head that he "blacked out" and had difficulty breathing when he woke up after Brownlee "smashed him over the head" and punched him in the stomach.

The evidence covered a period between 1967 and 1987.

'Lifetime of damage'

Brownlee was deemed unfit to stand trial last November.

An examination of the facts hearing was held without a jury before Sheriff Anderson in Edinburgh.

It gave the Crown and defence the opportunity to present evidence.

The Sheriff was then asked to determine whether or not the person accused carried out the actions.

Brownlee will not face any punishment.

Graeme Sneddon from the Edinburgh Academy Survivors Group
Graeme Sneddon described Brownlee as a 'violent monster'

Outside the court, Graeme Sneddon from the Edinburgh Academy Survivors Group read a statement describing Brownlee as a "violent monster" and said he had caused "a lifetime of damage to everyone concerned".

He said: "Today's verdict after almost three weeks of evidence and a year of police investigations sends out a strong signal that the law will one day catch up with anyone who abuses children.

"Justice has been done today after a wait of over 50 years for some former pupils.

"Finally, we have been believed."

Mr Campbell paid tribute to the work of Edinburgh Academy rector Barry Welsh in creating a "completely different" environment at the school to the one he left.

Mr Welsh reiterated his apology to pupils who suffered abuse and praised the "remarkable bravery" shown by those who gave evidence during the hearing.

He said: "Our commitment to facing up to the wrongs of the past remains unwavering.

"Many former pupils have shown remarkable bravery by giving evidence over several years, and we would like to reiterate our apology to all those affected by any abuse that occurred at our school."

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