Top UK schools in sex abuse probe

The Observer, LONDON

Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - Page 6

One of the highest-achieving state schools (non-fee-paying schools, funded in whole or in part by taxation) in the UK is among 23 secondaries and primaries where former pupils have come forward in the wake of the scandal over deceased pedophile British TV presenter, Jimmy Savile, to claim that they were sexually abused by teachers, the Observer can reveal.

A former pupil at Tiffin School in Kingston upon Thames, southwest London, has come forward to tell British police that he was repeatedly abused by a male teacher at the boys’ school in 1975. It is understood that the alleged perpetrator of the abuse is still alive.

The scandal that erupted in 2012 over Savile has encouraged a wave of alleged victims to come forward to the police to report their own experiences as children.

The Observer has learned that the Tiffin School, which recently featured in a guide to state schools in the high-society magazine Tatler, is one of four state schools where allegations of abuse have been reported to police and lawyers acting for victims in recent months.

In one case, the state school — not Tiffin — has made a settlement on behalf of the victim which is covered by a confidentiality agreement. In another primary school, there is an ongoing police investigation.

In a recent case, at Hillside First School in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, southwest England, the headteacher was dismissed when it emerged that staff had witnessed a total of 30 inappropriate incidents involving one teacher, none of which was passed on to the local authorities.

The teacher, Nigel Leat, 51, had received just one verbal warning about his behavior, leaving him free to abuse children as young as six between 1996 and 2010, until a mother finally reported him to police.

In June 2011, the Bristol Crown Court (the higher court of first instance in criminal cases) heard that Leat had abused five victims, some as young as six. The judge described Leat as a “pedophile of the most sickening order” and he was jailed indefinitely.

Liz Dux, a lawyer from Slater & Gordon solicitors, who are representing alleged victims of abuse at schools across Britain, said that it was a myth that sexual abuse was only being uncovered at private schools as people come forward following the Savile revelations.

While some leading public schools (fee-paying schools) — including those attended by British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, London Mayor Boris Johnson and former British prime minister Tony Blair — face accusations of covering up abuse for decades, there is growing evidence of similar criminality in the state sector, Dux said.

“There has been an explosion in the number of reported abuse cases. These are not exclusively in the private sector,” Dux said.