Children’s home boss on trial for cruelty

Stirling Sheriff Court
Stirling Sheriff Court

The head of a Carronshore children’s home in the 1970s and early 80s is facing trial charged with a catalogue of cruelty towards youngsters in his care.

James McManus (68) is said to have beaten child residents with a wooden baton or a wooden stick, pushed a screwdriver into a teenager’s face, knocked a boy unconscious by banging his head against a wall, and pinned a teenage girl to the ground before dousing her with water.

The incidents are alleged to have taken place at the former Dock Street Children’s Home between 1978 and 1984, while McManus was officer in charge of the home.

Originally run by the former Stirlingshire County Council and later by a successor body, the home is thought to have closed in the late 1980s.

Seven former residents, three girls and four boys, now all in their late 40s or early 50s, are said to have been assaulted by McManus.

Appearing at Stirling Sheriff Court today, McManus, of Braehead, Renfrewshire, pled not guilty to seven charges of physically assaulting children at the home – in two cases to severe injury – when they were between the ages of 11 and 17.

One alleged victim, a boy who was between 11 and 17 at the time, is said to have been permanently impaired by being repeatedly punched, kicked and struck with a wooden baton to his severe injury.

Another boy, aged 13 to 14 at the time, is said to have been repeatedly seized by the throat, punched, struck with a wooden baton, and pushed by McManus, who is also alleged to have repeatedly tied his hands and locked him in rooms.

On one occasion between January 1983 and February 1984, McManus is alleged to have forcibly pushed a screwdriver or similar implement into his face, and thereafter forcibly struck his head against a wall, whereby he was rendered unconscious, all to his severe injury.

Three teenage girl residents, aged at the time between 12 and 16, are said to have been repeatedly seized by McManus – by the hair in the case of two of them – and either thrown to the ground, dragged by the hair, or had hair pulled by him.

On one occasion, one of the girls is said to have been seized and dragged by McManus, pinned to the ground and straddled by him, before he allegedly threw water at her. On a second occasion, he is alleged to have struck her on the head with his hand.

And a boy, aged 12 to 16 at the time, is said to have been repeatedly punched and kicked on the head and body by McManus over a three-and-a-half-year period between December 1979 and June 1983.

At Stirling Sheriff Court today solicitor Virgil Crawford said McManus had only just been granted legal aid and the defence needed more time to prepare.

Sheriff Christopher Shead continued the case for trial at a jury sitting due to start on May 22, with a preliminary hearing on May 9.