A former child-protection officer at a top private school has been jailed for 16 years after being convicted of more than 40 sexual offences against 20 young girls.
Alexander Charles Ralls, 47, who was employed at fee-paying Queen Ethelburga’s School near York, sexually abused the pupils during a period of almost four years, Bradford Crown Court heard.
He appeared for sentence today after a jury convicted him of 44 counts of sexual offences against children following a six-week trial which ended in July.
Ralls, who denied all matters, was convicted of 32 sexual assaults, 10 counts of causing girls to engage in sexual activity and two counts of sexual assault by penetration.
He was found not guilty of four other sexual allegations.
Prosecutor Peter Hampton said there were 20 young victims who were abused when Ralls was working at Queen Ethelburga’s in Thorpe Underwood.
None of the victims can be named for legal reasons.
Ralls, who lived on the school premises at the time, was also a first aider at Queen Ethelburga’s. He had no medical qualifications.
North Yorkshire Police said: “Ralls used his position of trust to exploit his victims, claiming to care for them and provide them with medical treatment while actually sexually assaulting them.
“Both in the UK and on school trips abroad, he posed as a person with medical knowledge, instructing his victims to remove items of clothing and underwear, claiming to examine them for health reasons but then subjected them to sexual assault.”
Judge Kirstie Watson told Ralls: “The way in which you acted towards these girls was completely contrary to the care and nurturing expected of school staff and in gross breach of parents’ trust.
“You took advantage of the position you were in and took advantage of the girls that were in your care.”
The judge added: “The impact of your crimes has been significant on a number of the girls who have been assaulted.
“It has impacted on them emotionally and impacted on their physical wellbeing, on their education, their ability to form relationships.”
Defence barristers Colin Witcher and Heather Stangoe said that Ralls was a man of previous good character.
Ralls, of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, was jailed for 16 years and told he must serve up to two-thirds of that sentence behind bars before being released on prison licence.
He was ordered to sign on the sex-offenders’ register for life and made subject to a sexual-harm prevention order which was also for an indefinite period.
His victims speak out
In a victim statement read out in court, one of the girls spoke of the “years of pain” she had endured since being abused by a man she had trusted.
She said that when Ralls abused her, she was at her “most vulnerable”.
She said her subsequent relationships had been affected by Ralls’s “terrifying” behaviour and she still “slept with the lights on” and felt “unsafe in my own home”.
Another of Ralls’s victims said: “I should look back on my school years with fond memories and happiness. Instead, I look back with sadness and anger.
“I was violated by someone who was in a position of power, who I should have been able to trust. I know this ordeal will continue to affect me for the rest of my life.”
Another victim said she had felt “helpless” since Ralls repeatedly abused her.
A parent of one of the victims said their daughter had kept the abuse hidden for years.
They had tried to provide her with the best education and the “best start” that they could afford but felt “extreme guilt” that she had “suffered an horrendous ordeal”.
How to report child abuse or non-recent abuse
Investigating officer Detective Constable Suzanne Hall from the North Yorkshire Police Non-Recent Abuse Investigation Team said: “This was a complex and disturbing case where Ralls as a person in a position of trust, used his role to coerce and influence the young people he should have been caring for into a vulnerable position, which he then exploited for his own sexual gratification.
“The extent of his offending was staggering and the fact that he continued to use the same excuse of providing medical care to carry out his sickening actions, shows his utter arrogance towards and contempt of his victims.
“Not once has he taken any responsibility for his actions, pleading not guilty to all the charges, meaning his victims had to face a gruelling seven-week court process.
“I’d like to thank the victims for their enormous bravery in coming forward and giving their accounts. I know how difficult and traumatic that was for them. I hope the sentence handed to Ralls today helps them move on from such an upsetting period in their lives.”