Matron of Kirk Care Home "Sexually Abused Sisters and Shut Girl in Fridge"

By Loudon Temple

December 3, 2008

A MATRON subjected two girls, one as young as nine, to violent and sexual abuse in a Church of Scotland children's home, a court has heard.

Janette Gault, who was once in charge of the Carnegie Park Children's Home in Elderslie, Renfrewshire, also allegedly shut one of the sisters inside a fridge.

The younger of the two girls, now aged 46 and living in Glasgow, yesterday told a jury at Paisley Sheriff Court that she and her sister had been taken into care as their parents were alcoholics and unable to look after them.

They were the first youngsters to arrive at the children's home a large property in Auchenlodment Road and the beatings and sexual attacks began within weeks.

The witness said the matron identified at Janette Gault was cruel.

She said: "She would beat us up. She would get us to strip, lie us on her knee and hit us. She would tell us to take our trousers or skirt off and would hit us between our legs and on our back.

"She would slap us with her hand and sometimes she would hit us on the face."

Asked where the incidents took place, she said either in the girls' bedroom or in Gault's private quarters.

The witness said she had seen her sister being beaten and the attacks happened frequently throughout the six years they stayed there.

The depute fiscal, Frank Clarke, asked if they had maybe just been chastised for being naughty or unruly, and the witness replied: "No".

She told the court: "If I looked at her the wrong way, or I took a sweetie off the desk, that was a beating. I walked about with bruises down my back to my legs. Once she shoved me in a fridge. She was in a temper. She took everything out and put me in.

"She closed the door when I was inside," the witness went on. "I was pushing but couldn't get out. Then she opened it. My sister was there."

Asked how she had felt at the time, she answered: "I was in a panic. I remember crying."

She said that incident had taken place when she was nine years old.

Asked when the attacks finally stopped, she answered: "When I went away".

She had to be kept off school because of the extent of her bruises, and one incident that stuck in her mind involved a beating on Christmas Eve, after they had returned from the watchnight service.

She told the court: "I remember getting back and getting beat up. That was on Christmas Eve.

"In the morning, she said, 'Apologise and give me a proper kiss on the lips'."

She said the girls were also subjected to sexual abuse.

Those episodes, she maintained, would also happen on a regular basis, about once a week, for the entire duration of their stay.

"How do you feel today? asked Mr Clarke.

"We can't get on with our lives for what she's done to us," the witness said.

Gault, who now lives in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, is accused of assault and using lewd and libidinous practices towards her alleged victims while one was aged between nine and 15 years and the other was between the ages of 11 and 16.

She is charged with assaulting one of the girls by placing her inside a fridge and closing the door while she was inside, and striking her with a belt.

It is claimed that she used lewd and libidinous practices towards her and sexually abused her.

Gault, now 68, is also alleged to have used lewd and libidinous practices towards the other girl, sexually abusing her and assaulting her by striking her repeatedly with her hands, a belt and a ruler or similar instrument.

It is claimed that the offences which Gault denies took place between 1971 and 1977.

The trial, before Sheriff Neil Douglas, continues.


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