Worker at Queen Ethelburga's public school jailed for sex offences

Ex-deputy head of boarding at £36,000-a-year public school Queen Ethelburga’s, 47, is jailed for string of sex offences including molesting girl aged eight

  • Alexander Ralls, 47, was a safeguarding lead at Queen Ethelburga’s public school
  • He carried out 31 sexual assaults on girls during trips away from school near York

A manager who oversaw sleeping arrangements at one of the country’s top boarding schools has been jailed for 16 years after molesting 20 girls in his care.

Alexander Ralls, 47, held the post of deputy head of boarding at Queen Ethelburga’s public school near York.

Ralls came to the school with a glowing CV as an events production manager, having been involved in Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first royal engagement in Kensington Palace Gardens.

He had also worked on Elton John’s Annual White Tie and Tiara Ball at the singer’s private estate and at the wedding of Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone.

Ralls was today found guilty of 44 separate sex offences against 20 girls who he took on trips abroad with his charity. The youngest was just eight years old.

Alexander Ralls, 47, abused his position as deputy head of boarding at £36,000-a-year Queen Ethelburga’s public school near York to molest 20 girls in his care.

The offences occurred between November 2012 and August 2016, covering much of the time he was employed at the school until 2015.

Ralls was also the deputy child protection officer at the school, where he had an apartment, as well as an out-of-hours medic despite having no formal teaching or medical qualifications, a court heard.

Most of his victims were pupils at the £36,000-a year-mixed sex public boarding school. But, it was in his role as head of the charity Affecting Real Change (ARC) that he managed to carry out the majority of his sex attacks during mercy missions to The Gambia and India.

The trial at Bradford Crown Court heard Ralls had come from a drama and TV background and he had worked on Top of the Pops and Saturday morning’s television show SMTV before moving into schools’ theatre design.

Whilst working at schools he began accompanying children aged 16-18 on foreign trips, including to Nepal, Outer Mongolia, Central and South America. 

In 2001 he set up the charity ARC to help street children and orphans in India and The Gambia, accompanied by teenage schoolboys and schoolgirls from the UK.

Ralls, who had undergone Wilderness Medical Training but was only a First Aider, was often the only medic on the trips and used that role to sexually assault the girls in his care when they were sick, vulnerable and far from home.

After a six week trial Ralls was found guilty of 31 counts of sexual assault, one sexual assault on a child under 13, 10 counts of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, and and two charges of assault by penetration. All his victims were girls.

Ralls was deputy head of child protection at Queen Ethelburga’s as well as out-of-hours medic at the school, where he had an apartment, despite having no formal teaching or medical qualifications

Prosecutor Peter Hampton said Ralls was sacked by Queen Ethelburga’s in 2015 for gross misconduct after an internal investigation. But police did not get involved until another victim came forward in 2018.

The trial heard Ralls ran a charity and had taken pupils on trips to The Gambia in 2012, and India in 2014 and 2015. He molested seven of his victims on the 2014 orphanage trip and sexually attacked nine girls in 2015.

Mr Hampton said on the trips girls and boys would suffer heat stroke and diarrhoea and would seek Ralls for treatment. He would give the boys medicine, but the girls were treated differently.

Many were told to strip naked or down to their underwear and then Ralls would either pour cold water onto their bodies and pat them down with damp flannels.

They would also be told to shower naked, whilst he watched or he would rub their stomachs, often moving his hands to their genital area or breasts.

Mr Hampton said: ‘This was not genuine medical treatment, this was gratuitous touching for the defendants sexual satisfaction.

‘He manipulated a situation so that he could view a teenage girl naked for his own sexual pleasure.’

On the trips Ralls would often share sleeping quarters with the girls and some of his victims woke up in the middle of the night to find him sexually assaulting them.

Many of his victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, bravely attended court to see their abuser jailed.

Several penned victim impact statements, which were read out in court.

One said he attacked her when she was at her most vulnerable, ‘a child, without her parents, sick and in a foreign country*for is own sexual gratification.’

She stated that the experience was ‘terrifying’. ‘He masqueraded as a healer to sexually assault me,’ she said.

Another victim has attempted suicide, is suffering from PTSD and has flashbacks. She described him as ‘a privileged man with absolute power.’

His youngest victim stated that she felt violated, suffers flashbacks and wants a new body, because he touched the body she has. 

She added: ‘I feel disgusted with him and the school.’

Sentence Judge Kirstie Watson told him: ‘The way you acted towards those girls was completely contrary to the care and nurturing that was expected from school staff and in gross breach of the trust the parents of those girls placed in you.

‘They chose to send their daughters to the school at which you worked and when they allowed them to accompany you abroad for charitable purposes.’

The judge said that rather than giving the girls proper medical help on the foreign trips ‘you deceived them into believing that what you were doing was appropriate and necessary, when time and time again it was not’.

‘You took advantage of their ill health to commit the offences,’ said Judge Watson.

The judge said that after Ralls was dismissed from Queen Ethelburga’s for gross misconduct neither parents of pupils were informed of the reason why – merely told for a ‘family situation’ – and the school failed to notify the police.

Ralls’ business website Alex Ralls Stage and Production Management, he lists a number of events he worked on. It states he was: ‘Production Manager and Showcaller for high profile events including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s (William and Kate) first royal engagement in Kensington Palace Gardens, Elton John’s Annual White Tie and Tiara Balls and Petra Ecclestone’s wedding.’

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