Paedophile teacher to hear sentence

PUBLISHED: 09:47 13 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:23 13 June 2011

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(click on image for larger view)

Archant

A NORTH Somerset paedophile teacher has been told to expect a ‘substantial’ prison sentence when he is sentenced tomorrow (Tues) morning.

Nigel Leat will hear his fate at Bristol Court for a catalogue of serious sexual abuse affecting up to 47 children at the primary school where he taught.

The paedophile sexually assaulted students aged six to eight over a 13-year period in what a senior policeman has called ‘the most sickening abuse of trust’ he has ever known.

The 51-year-old teacher, who has been labelled ‘a predatory paedophile,’ appeared before Bristol Crown Court on Friday, when the case was adjourned.

Leat filmed himself abusing his pupils during the school day at Hillside First School in Worle, by hiding cameras on bookshelves and under desks and chose his classroom, the reading room, the computer room and even the staff room to carry out the sickening assaults.

He pleaded guilty in May to 31 different types of sexual offence on children, including one count of attempted rape, another of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and one charge of voyeurism.

Police believe 47 children were victims of Leat’s abuse at the school, either having directly suffered at the hands of the paedophile or having witnessed or been affected by the sexual assaults.

Police say the oldest of his victims is now 19 years old.

The court heard on Friday how, as well as assaulting children in the classroom or while helping them get ready for PE with other youngsters present, he also chose to give his victims extra after-school or lunchtime reading lessons in order to abuse students on a one-to-one basis.

He is believed to have chosen one or more ‘star pupils’ in his class each year to abuse and then often gave them gifts as part of the grooming process over a substantial period of time.

The paedophile would arrange his classroom so that he could easily abuse children while they read to him and with other youngsters present, but without it being obvious to fellow teachers should they walk into the room.

The court also heard how Leat also wrote letters to his pupils in child-friendly language asking them to perform sexual acts on or with him.

When officers searched his home last December they found 13 such correspondences, with replies at the bottom in children’s handwriting.

On Thursday police held a media briefing in Bristol where senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Geoff Wessell, who has been leading Operation Joist into Leat’s activities, said it was not just the children he manipulated, but teachers and friends as well.

DCI Wessell said he wanted to pay tribute to the bravery of the victims, who he does not think understand what has happened to them.

He explained how the police were first made aware of concerns about father-of-two, Leat, who has been married for 27 years, last December, when one child told her parents Leat had given her a present.

But the youngster then told her mother the reason he had done so was ‘a secret’. It then emerged over the following weekend that Leat had been touching the child inappropriately and the mother called the police on the Monday as soon as she realised the seriousness of the situation.

The same day Leat was arrested at the school, which we have now been given permission by the court to name, and in a first interview, he denied allegations, saying they were ‘frankly disgusting and horrible and that his job as a teacher is to ‘look after children and nurture them’.

Following his arrest on December 13 a major investigation was launched by police, with computers and USB sticks taken from the teacher’s home address in Bristol, as well as from the school.

Fast track analysis revealed multiple videos of Leat, who qualified as a teacher 15 years ago, abusing pupils.

DSI Wessell said: “Leat is a predatory paedophile and this is the worst, most sickening breach of trust I have ever seen.

“He is cunning and a paedophile who is an expert at lying.

“Leat has the ability to manipulate at all levels.

“He groomed victims over weeks and months and his behaviour became routine for victims.”

DSI Wessell said that concerns had been raised by individuals at the school over the past five years and prior to the teacher’s arrest, which involved Leat’s ‘tactile’ behaviour towards youngsters.

The comments were then not believed to be anything that was considered necessary to report to police.

DSI Wessell added: “I want to pay a level of recognition to staff at the school.

“Shock, anger and denial is what the parents and teachers have gone through and some are probably feeling guilty they never realised what was happening.

“But there is only one guilty person in relation to these offences and that’s Leat.”

During the investigation police compiled 554 statements, reports and other documents relating to the crimes.

Leat, whose wife is believed to have disowned him and whose family DSI Wessell says knew nothing about the crimes, is a former musician whose first teaching job was at the school where he was arrested.

Police have confirmed he underwent appropriate CRB checks and safeguarding children training.

DSI Wessell said there is no evidence that any sexual abuse had been directed towards Leat’s two children, one male and the other a female, who are now grown up, or that any assault had taken place outside of the school.

He added that there is a possibility that more victims will come forward in the future.

Police have evidence from, or photographic or video evidence of six female victims, while they believe another 14 children were victims of serious sexual abuse, but officers had either no disclosure of the crimes or limited disclosure of lesser abuse.

In addition officers believe 29 children witnessed the abuse or their behaviour changed after becoming a pupil of Leat, who police say was well-respected by colleagues before his arrest and regarded as ‘pleasant, caring and easy going’.

Leat’s charges also include one of possessing extreme child abuse images, and one of possessing indecent images of children.

His employment was terminated earlier on in the investigation by North Somerset Council, whose expert support staff have been working to support victims and parents.

The independent Local Safeguarding Children Board is carrying out a serious case review at the school.

* Keep an eye on this website for updates from court tomorrow.

* Click on the link at the top of the page for more on this story.

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