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Released On 7th Oct 2020

Allegations of historic sexual abuse at Colet Court

St Paul's Junior School is an independent school and preparatory school for boys aged 7 to 13 in Barnes, London.  It forms the preparatory department of St Paul's School, to which most Juniors pupils progress at the age of 13.

St Paul’s Junior was formerly known as Colet Court.  It has an illustrious list of alumni including current politicians, household names from the entertainment industry and writers and journalists.  What is less well known is the number of teachers who have taught at Colet Court or St Pauls and who have been convicted of offences of historic sexual abuse. 

In March 2014, The Times implicated six former teachers at Colet Court and St Paul’s in alleged historic sex offences against pupils. The article prompted calls to the newspaper, the school and the police.  As result Operation Winthorpe was set up by the Met Police to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by former pupils who were at the school between 1960 and 1980.  Survivors claimed their allegations of abuse were hushed up by the authorities.  Complaints were made against a housemaster who fondled boys in the dormitory, a choirmaster who paid boys half a crown after molesting them, a teacher who beat ‘naughty’ boys, and a maths tutor who kept a register of pupils he punished in private spanking sessions.

The police recorded complaints against 18 former members of staff at the Colet Court and St Pauls schools, some no longer alive. The number of victims, suspects – spanning 50 years, from the mid-1960s to last year – and potential witnesses has passed 200.

Alan Doggett was a Choir master, teacher and member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange in the days when that organisation was “mainstream”.  Doggett left Colet Court in 1968 after allegations of abuse surfaced against him.  He was supposed to have paid the boys after abusing them.  In 1978 he was charged with child abuse but took his own life before the Trial.

David Sansom-Mallet was a teacher at Colet Court between1973 and 1975. He was found guilty of sexual abuse between1974 and 1983 and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Thomas Laessing was a maths teacher and head of tennis.  He was found to have sent inappropriate messages to young girls he was sacked in 2016.

Tim Harbord was a teacher for 25 years at Colet Court, until in 2013 he was arrested on suspicion of grooming a pupil when police discovered Harbord had sent a pupil a leather jacket.  Harbord admitted he enjoyed a “very close relationship with the boy”.  Harbord was released with no further action but he resigned soon after from Colet Court.  Harbord was then arrested again as part of Operation Winthorpe but again released without charge.  Earlier this year Harbord was finally charged with an historic sexual offence but was found dead shortly afterwards.

Another Colet Court teacher, Anthony Fuggle, former classics master, was also arrested in 2013 as part of Operation Winthorpe on suspicion of possessing indecent images of boys.  In 2015, Fuggle admitted 6 counts of possessing indecent images and was sentenced at Kingston Crown Court.  He was found to be in possession of over 1000 images of children.

In January 2020 Richmond Safeguarding Children Board published a report entitled “Everybody’s Business: Keeping Children Safe in School A Serious Case Review into Events at St Paul’s School”

During the 1960 to 80’s the accounts of life at Colet Court contained a substantial element of physical violence including use of corporal punishment.  This was not banned in independent schools until 1998, although St Paul’s School banned its use in 1982 before legally required to do so.  The culture was described by pupils as “brutal”, “a hard knocks bullying culture” and “sadistic” with physical punishment being used at times where boys were struggling academically.  Bullying was described as part of the culture “particularly at Colet Court”

Descriptions of Colet Court during the 2000’s did not contain accounts of the extreme harsh regime of earlier years, but the review was told that parents routinely said that “you survive Colet Court to get to St Paul’s”.

The Laidlaw Review found that when parents and pupils made complaints in 2005 and 2006, the school failed to investigate these properly as the Head of Colet Court and the High Master were too easily deceived by the member of staff’s popularity with many pupils and parents.

Robson Shaw Solicitors are already representing victims of historic sexual abuse at Colet Court.  If you or a family member would like to speak to a specialist solicitor about a potential claim, please contact us for a confidential, free, no obligation discussion on 01392 345 333 or email enquiries@robsonshaw.uk.