Millions of pounds in compensation could be paid to the victims of paedophile teacher Nigel Leat, who carried out a catalogue of sickening sexual attacks on students at a Weston-super-Mare school.
North Somerset Council has admitted a breach of duty in its care of students at the school, where Leat preyed on victims – some as young as six.
Paedophile teacher Nigel Leat’s crimes may have consequences for a local council
Former musician Leat was jailed for an indefinite term after admitting a total of 36 offences, including 32 against five female students on school property, from September 2006 to July 2010.
The crimes were one count of attempted rape, eight sexual assaults by penetration and 23 further sexual assaults.
Father-of-two Leat, who worked at the school for 15 years, also admitted charges of voyeurism; causing or inciting a child aged under 13 to engage in a sexual act; possessing more than 30,000 indecent photographs and movies of children, and possessing extreme pornography.
Former headteacher Chris Hood – who joined Hillside First School in 2001 – has been banned from returning to teaching following Teaching Agency professional conduct panel criticisms that he failed to protect children in his care.
A serious case review, commissioned by the North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board, heard there were 30 recorded incidents of Leat behaving in an inappropriate or unprofessional manner.
Only 11 of the 30 incidents were reported within the school to Mr Hood, but were not taken any further or reported to designated North Somerset safeguarding officers.
As the local authority which employed Mr Hood, who was dismissed in December 2011, North Somerset Council now faces compensation claims which could run into millions of pounds.
Exeter-based solicitors Slee Blackwell are acting for a number of families whose children became victims of Leat.
The authority has admitted a breach of duty in the first of the claims – an admission of culpability which is likely to pave the way for a series of settlements.
Slee Blackwell partner, Samantha Robson, who is representing the families, said: “We have already succeeded in obtaining an admission of breach of duty in the first of our cases against North Somerset Council. Not only is the victim’s family delighted but it also gives encouragement to other victims who have not yet come forward.
“It’s important that these victims not only receive compensation but are given access to specialist treatment and counselling to enable them to come to terms with this tragic episode in their young lives.”
It is believed that historic victims of Leat may now come forward. Victims have up until their 21st birthday to bring forward a claim for damages.
A North Somerset Council spokesman said: “Claims have been received in relation to the Leat case and they are being handled by the council’s insurers.”
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