Compensation in store for victims of evil paedophile teacher

Nigel Leat

Nigel Leat - Credit: Archant

MILLIONS of pounds could be paid to the victims of a paedophile teacher who was allowed to prey on pupils in his classroom for more than a decade.

Predator Nigel Leat filmed himself abusing children at Hillside First School in Worle for years until his arrest in 2010, while the school’s headteacher, Chris Hood, ignored multiple staff warnings about Leat’s suspect conduct.

This week, Mr Hood failed in his bid to return to teaching when a professional panel ruled his failure to protect children meant he should be banned from schools for good.

And the local education authority which employed Mr Hood now faces huge compensation payouts to families who fell victim to Leat’s vile behaviour.

The Mercury has learned North Somerset Council has admitted its breach of care in the first such case – an admission of culpability which is likely to pave the way for a series of settlements.

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Samantha Robson, of Slee Blackwell Solicitors, is representing a number of Hillside families, and heralded the LEA’s admission 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.

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“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.”

A council spokesman confirmed yesterday (Weds): “Claims have been received in relation to the Leat case and they are being handled by the council’s insurers.”

Earlier this week, Education Secretary Michael Gove supported Teaching Panel findings that Mr Hood had been guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, and banned him from schools permanently.

The ruling came after the panel heard how 30 separate concerns logged about Leat’s behaviour towards pupils failed to elicit action against him.

Mr Gove agreed with the panel that 55-year-old Mr Hood’s behaviour was ‘incompatible with being a teacher’.

He said: “As headteacher Mr Hood was in a position of significant responsibility for the safety and welfare of pupils. The panel have found the facts of the case proven and that those facts amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

“Mr Hood has failed to comply with standard and nationally recognised safeguarding procedures and the panel have determined that he presents a continuing risk to pupils.

“I agree that it is appropriate and proportionate to impose a prohibition order and that there should be no review period in this case.”

News of Mr Hood’s ban was welcomed by Hillside families.

One parent, who cannot be named, said: “This is long overdue.

“While we have always known Nigel Leat worked alone in abusing pupils, it was hard to accept the many warning signs were not acted upon.

“Plenty of opportunities to protect our children were ignored. The buck for that has to stop somewhere – we feel it should stop with Chris Hood.

“I was appalled to learn he felt he could just shrug off his failures and go back to work. This ruling is justice in light of his failures.”

* FURTHER claims on behalf of Nigel Leat’s victims could continue to be made for years to come, according to the solicitor representing some of his victims.

Samantha Robson, of Slee Blackwell Solicitors, told the Mercury that known victims to date could be just the tip of the iceberg.

She said: “We believe Nigel Leat had been acting inappropriately towards children for many years and anticipate there are a number of additional victims who have not yet come forward.

“Statutory time limits allow victims to pursue a civil remedy up until their 21st birthday, irrespective of whether they were named in the criminal proceedings, so it will be some time before the full extent of this scandal comes to light.”

She added: “The recent announcement by the Teaching Panel has been welcomed by the families.

“One parent told me: ‘I think Chris Hood is getting everything he deserves. He was told what was going on and ignored it. He should never be allowed to teach again in any form whatsoever.’”

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