Prosecutors yesterday shelved action against 10 workers accused of abusing children at Kerelaw residential school.

Crown officials said they did not have enough evidence to proceed in the cases and that they were prepared to meet with complainers personally to explain why.

A total of 20 members of staff from Kerelaw, an Ayrshire unit for troubled youngsters, have been reported to the procurator-fiscal.

Yesterday's decision means that 13 of them will not, at least for the time being, face prosecution as Crown counsel had earlier decided to take no action on three cases.

Two men have been convicted of sexually and physically abusing children, a woman is awaiting trial in August and four other individuals are still under investigation.

A Crown Office spokeswoman said yesterday: "Crown counsel have instructed that, on the basis of the evidence currently available, there will be no criminal proceedings at this time in relation to 10 separate cases reported to the procurator-fiscal at Kilmarnock follow- ing allegations of abuse at Kerelaw.

"The procurator-fiscal at Kilmarnock has informed complainers of the decision reached in these cases and has offered individual meetings to explain the reasons for the decision in their case."

The Crown Office announcement comes just a week after Glasgow City Council, which owned and managed the Stevenston facility, said it believed as many as 40 members of staff were directly involved in either the physical or sexual abuse of children. The council said "a far larger number" of staff knew or suspected abuse but did nothing about it.

The majority of Kerelaw staff deny most allegations of abuse and argue they are the victims of a conspiracy hatched by several generations of pupils hungry for compensation.

Two men were convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh last year. Matt George and John Muldoon were jailed for 10 and two-and-a-half years respectively. Both aim to appeal their convictions and have always protested their innocence.

A third member of staff, care worker Elaine Graham, will appear at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court in August charged with having a sexual relationship with a young man in her care and supplying cannabis to pupils at the school.

Another Kerelaw employee, Jack Gartland, died before fiscals made a decision on whether to prosecute him. Glasgow City Council's findings that 40 men and women at Kerelaw were involved in hurting children would make Kerelaw one of the biggest abuse scandals in British history.

Many of the children involved come from difficult backgrounds and some, although far from all, have led chaotic lives since leaving the school. Others are in jail. Child abuse campaigners have warned, given the amount of time that has passed and the lifestyles of some of the witnesses, that prosecutions would be difficult to bring.

Glasgow City Council has dismissed 14 members of staff. They and others have been banned from working with children, the burden of proof for which is lower than for a full criminal conviction. Several members of staff are taking the authority to employment tribunals.

Unison, the union representing accused staff, and children's rights advocates have called for a public inquiry to find out what happened at Kerelaw.

A council spokesman said: "Decisions on whether to proceed to trial or not are a matter for the Crown Office."