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Released On 27th Nov 2019

IICSA Investigate Historic Sexual Abuse at Schools

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (or IICSA) has announced that as part of its ongoing investigation into child sexual abuse at schools it will hear evidence regarding Hillside First School in North Somerset, Clifton College in Bristol, and Headlands School in East Yorkshire. 

The investigation will take a wide look at safeguarding procedures within the schools, and will include an examination of culture, governance and management when allegations of child sexual abuse are made, while also hearing from teaching unions and the Teaching Regulation Agency.

Public hearings will take place in May 2020 and survivors are invited to contact IICSA. 

Samantha Robson and Robert Shaw, both solicitors here at Robsonshaw, have been involved in numerous claims upon behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse at schools up and down the country, including claims on behalf of pupils at Hillside School and Clifton College.

Sexual abuse by Nigel Leat at Hillside School, Somerset

Samantha acted on behalf of the families of children who were sexually abused by teacher Nigel Leat at Hillside School in Somerset. 

From the late 1990s onwards Leat sexually abused young pupils, some of whom were only 5 years old, over a period of 13 years. Leat would lure the primary school children with gifts and notes before sexually abusing them in the classroom. Often, Leat would select young children as his victims and write them notes before secretly filming himself touching them.  Such was the trust placed by the children in Leat that his abuse only came to light when a young girl told her parents that Leat had been touching her. 

Leat was promptly arrested by plain clothes officers on school grounds, interviewed and charged. He pleaded guilty to preying on young girls since 1998. The investigating officer described his offences as:

“some of the worst and most sickening we have ever seen”. 

Leat admitted 36 offences, including attempted rape of a child and sexual assault on children. He was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court in May 2011 and was jailed indefinitely for dozens of sexual offences against the children.

However, that was not the end of the story.  North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board (NSSCB) commissioned a Serious Case Review (SCR), after the arrest of Leat.  In December 2010, the report was published.

A failure of procedures at the school

The report confirmed that despite the fact the school had procedures in place to protect its pupils, these were not being properly implemented and the school failed on a number of occasions to take action despite warnings.

Leat had been a teacher at the school since September 1995, and concerns had been raised about his inappropriate behaviour as early as 1996. He was seen touching, cuddling and even kissing pupils, and each year he selected a “star” pupil on whom he would lavish attention.

The Report revealed that Leat’s behaviour was so well known that staff tried to prevent children who were likely to become his “star” pupils from being put in his class.  There were at least 30 incidents raised by the staff at the Hillside School, but these were not reported to the Education Authorities or the police. Head teacher, Chris Hood, only reprimanded Leat on one occasion, despite the fact that in 2004 a mother claimed that Leat had taken photographs of her daughter on a mobile phone, and in 2008 two children reported that Leat had been touching their legs and kissing one of them.

In short, the rules and procedures in place to protect children were found to have been largely ignored. Mr Hood was dismissed in December 2011 once the full extent of his failings became known.

Large compensation payouts likely for survivors of abuse at Hillside School

Speaking to the press at the time of the investigations Samantha welcomed the LEA’s admission that it faced huge payouts for the survivors of Leat’s abuse as ‘welcome news’.  She said:

“I know that I speak for all of the families involved in saying that the defendant’s admission of breach of duty is extremely welcome news and I hope it goes some way to enable the victims to move forward after the terrible failings that have occurred.

“The last thing these families need is a protracted court battle, and I’m pleased the defendants seem to have recognised this”.

“With breach of duty having been conceded in the first of my cases I am optimistic about resolving these claims without undue delay and stress to the victims.”

Samantha went on to win six-figure sums of compensation for many of the families. 

Abuse by Thomson-Glover at Clifton College, Bristol

Robert has acted on behalf of victims of sexual abuse whilst pupils at Clifton College in Bristol.

In 1990 Jonathan Thomson-Glover joined Clifton College, a leading public school in Bristol, and taught German there for 24 years.  He became a house-master responsible for the welfare of hundreds of teenagers at Clifton College. In 1998 Thomson-Glover started filming pupils. 

At his trial, Thomson-Glover was found to have placed concealed cameras in school showers and studies, and in a bedroom where children were encouraged to engage in sexual activity.  Thomson-Glover was particularly interested in

“good-looking, naughty, sporty boys,” 

These students would be invited to his home for beer, pizza and computer games, and on weekends to his holiday home in Cornwall. 

There were reports of underage drinking and smoking, and the boys reported they would be encouraged to indulge in “horse-play” and mock wrestling with Thomson-Glover. On one occasion, pupils and staff reportedly found Thomson-Glover tied and taped to a chair, and on another occasion he was discovered on the school’s cricket pitch in his underpants. 

These incidents were dismissed as pranks.  Indeed, if parents did complain they were frequently told that if they were unhappy they should find another school for their child.  .

Thomson-Glover’s abuse came to light when one pupil complained, and police seized Thomson-Glover’s PC and mobile only to discover the indecent images he had taken of school pupils.

At his trial in 2016, Thomson-Glover, aged 53, was jailed for three-and-a-half years by Bristol Crown Court.

Investigation finds no effective action taken by Clifton College

An independent investigation was launched by the college following Thomson-Glover’s prosecution.  It found that a failure to keep records, pass on concerns or investigate complaints meant no effective action was taken against Thomson-Glover.

Commenting upon the report at the time Robert Shaw said:

“a lack of continuity and proper record keeping meant that successive heads did not appreciate the very many complaints that had been raised about Thomson-Glover during his teaching career.  Concerns were considered in isolation and unfortunately such was the casual approach by the school, that none of the complaints resulted in disciplinary action”

IICSA Hearing

The IICSA will hear evidence from survivors of childhood sexual abuse at Hillside School, Clifton College and Headlands School from 11th to 22nd May 2020 at the Inquiry’s hearing centre, 18 Pocock Street, London SE1 0BW.

If you have first-hand knowledge of allegations of child sexual abuse at Hillside First School, Clifton College or Headlands School you can contact either Samantha Robson or Robert Shaw here at Robsonshaw solicitors. 

You can also email the Inquiry direct at solicitors@iicsa.org.uk with “Residential Schools investigation” in the subject line, or telephone the Inquiry information line on 0800 917 1000.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of any sexual abuse including childhood sexual abuse at a school, please contact Samantha Robson or Robert Shaw for a confidential, free and no obligation discussion on 01392 345333, sam@robsonshaw.uk or robert@robsonshaw.uk.

Tags: Child Photos, Mandatory Reporting, Nigel Leat, School Abuse, sexual abuse

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