Nuns Anne Kenny and Agnes Reville cleared of assault

Agnes Reville and Anne Kenny Agnes Reville and Anne Kenny were cleared of assault charges

Two nuns have been cleared of assaulting girls in their care at an approved school in Renfrewshire.

Anne Kenny, 79, known as Mother Rosaria, and Agnes Reville, 77, known as Mother Martin, had been accused of hitting pupils at Dalbeth Approved School in Bishopton from 1969 to 1971.

Their trial at Paisley Sheriff Court heard claims that pupils were held in a cupboard and hit with a carpet beater.

Ms Reville, of Newcastle, and Ms Kenny, of Manchester, were found not guilty.

Sheriff Susan Sinclair told the nuns, who have had this case hanging over them for five years: "You are free to go."

'Careful consideration'

She told the jury of eight women and seven men: "You have clearly given this case a lot of careful consideration."

Afterwards the nuns hugged their supporters but did not comment as they left court.

During their trial, the nuns told the court that the only punishment for bad behaviour at Dalbeth was for pupils to be put in a detention room.

Any girl sent there, they said, was monitored and given food and water.

Other former pupils came forward to say how the nuns had turned their lives around.

However, six of the former pupils - most of whom had criminal records for dishonesty - claimed that they were bodily dragged to the detention room and spoke of being beaten with a riding whip and a carpet beater.

One of the alleged victims, Catherine Logan, now 57, claimed that nuns from Dalbeth abused her during her time there between 1969 and 1971.

Mrs Logan told the court that she was hit about 12 or 13 times - including with a riding crop - by Mother Rosaria.

She also said that she was put in a punishment room and tied to a pipe for days without food or water.

Assault claims

Kathleen Humphries, 56, another pupil at the school, told the court she had been hit with a carpet beater by Mother Rosaria in her office.

She told prosecutor Douglas Hamilton: "She battered me about the body with it every couple of days.

"She threw me across the room and hit me with the carpet beater when I was on the floor. I was screaming."

Ms Humphries asked if there was any reason for this and replied: "I was trying to run away."

She also claimed that she was shut in a cupboard in Mother Rosaria's office twice - once for three or four hours and the second time for a few minutes.

A third woman Elizabeth Howell, 58, said the Mother Rosaria, who was head teacher of the approved school, struck her on the body and locked her in a toilet for a week.

Another three women, Barbara Young, 58, Lucille Cope, 57, and Patricia Timothy, 57, said they were assaulted by Mother Martin.

Ms Young claimed that Mother Martin dug her fingernails into her body and pulled her by her hair and dragged her into a room against her will and left her there without food.

Ms Cope told the court she was slapped and punched about the head and body and hit on the legs and body with a ruler.

'Highly unprofessional'

Ms Timothy said she was struck on the face by Mother Martin's hand and knocked to the ground.

She told the court that Mother Martin then knelt on top of her and squeezed her face before dragging her by the hair along a corridor.

The jury, however, did not believe their stories.

It also emerged that the police officer in charge of investigating the abuse claims, DC Lesley McAuley, was caught wearing a "No Surrender" sticker on her uniform at a Rangers game.

DC Lesley McAuley, who drives a blue car with a RFC number plate, is also facing assault charges, including allegations of a racist attack.

The trial heard that during the investigation she gave phone numbers of alleged victims to other alleged victims and also encouraged them to go to lawyers to seek compensation.

This behaviour was described by DC Moira Fyffe, who was briefly involved in the investigation, as "highly unprofessional".

Defence counsel Robert Anthony, representing Agnes Reville, compared this to "putting a fox in charge of a henhouse".

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