‘One of the lads’ was abuser, court is told
end of the trial jurors will be ‘entitled to conclude that he was grooming the children, earning their admiration and affection so that they more readily tolerated his abuse, were less likely to report him and were likely to have very mixed feelings’.
She said McLean used ‘threats’ to keep the boys quiet, including telling one of them that ‘whatever was happening at Taxal Edge was better than what would happen at home’.
Another was warned that if he said anything he ‘could end up like another boy buried in the grounds’, the prosecutor said, adding that this was a ‘high tale’ with no suggestion of a real basis.
McLean faces 33 counts of sexual abuse including indecent assault and serious sexual assault involving penetration and other non-consensual sex acts.
Some of the charges relate to multiple instances of abuse over a period of time.
His alleged victims’ ages ranged from seven to 14 years old.
The prosecutor said the case came to light after complainants came forward over time, resulting in Operation Octant after the number of allegations continued to grow from 2014 onwards.
Miss Whyte said some of the boys in the case, now adults, have taken civil action for compensation against the local authorities who placed them in McLean’s care.
She said the youngsters were ‘impressionable’ and ‘vulnerable’ children in care, and some had already experienced violent or sexual abuse, but children’s home ‘house father’ McLean would betray his trust by abusing them in locations such as dormitories, bathroom, duty office, in the car or on school trips.
Closing her case opening, Miss Whyte said: “The Crown says that at the time they were abused, they were very vulnerable.
“They were entrusted to adults such as Bruce McLean. As young people, their relationship with authority could be difficult and challenging in any event – who would believe such children back then – their word against the denials of a care worker.
“You may well evidence that some of these witnesses did not cope well in adult life and did not always behave well in adult life themselves.
“Not every court case is about witnesses who get everything right – court cases are about real life and real people.
“Some have struggled to lead emotionally healthy lives and you may hear evidence about how a fear of being disbelieved motivated the long periods of silence.
“And that is why you’re here, you’re here to listen to their evidence and we say, to be satisfied so that you are sure that Bruce McLean sexually violated these witnesses and violated any trust that they could have in him and in those in authority.”
The jury of eight women and four men also heard that McLean had been convicted in May 1997 of indecent assault against nine boys and one girl over alleged abuse at Kilrie.
McLean denies all charges and the court heard he maintains his innocence in connection with his previous set of convictions.
The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.
Anne Whyte QC and Andrew Green QC appear for the prosecution, Michael Hayton QC and Victoria Hayton QC for the defence.
His Honour Judge Patrick Thompson presides.
Bruce McLean arriving at Chester Crown Court this week