Anger as sex abuse teacher is deemed suitable for move to open jail

Nigel Leat

Nigel Leat - Credit: Archant

A predatory paedophile teacher who filmed himself sexually abusing young girls in his Worle school classroom has been deemed ‘suitable’ to be moved to an open prison, the Mercury has learned.

Nigel Leat, who is in his late 50s, was jailed in 2011 after he pleaded guilty to 36 charges relating to the abuse of pupils in his care at Hillside First School.

An indefinite jail term was imposed for ‘public protection’ and a judge said Leat should serve a minimum of eight-and-a-half years before he could apply for parole.

But the Mercury has learned a parole board decided Leat was deemed ‘suitable’ for a move to open prison conditions.

One victim’s parent says they were not informed Leat could be moved to open conditions until the board had already come to its conclusions.

She said she is ‘disgusted’ Leat’s rights appear to have taken precedence over his victims’.

The Ministry of Justice makes the final decisions on whether a prisoner can be moved – but did not answer the Mercury’s questions to confirm whether this has already happened.

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The parent of one of Leat’s victims told the Mercury: “As a family we are disgusted by this, as again a child abuser’s rights come before any of these children.

“We have had to fight for help for our child through all of this.

“No-one has offered help, we as a family have had to beg for counselling for help.

“He will have any help he wants.”

The family said they were approached by a parole officer to get impact statements – but only once the conclusion Leat was fit to move to open prison had already been reached.

The parole board did not comment directly on this particular issue, when questioned by the Mercury.

The parole board however did, during its deliberations, decide Leat was not suitable to be freed from the prison system.

A parole board spokesman confirmed the final decision would be taken by higher powers in the Ministry of Justice.

The spokesman added: “A panel of the parole board made a decision not to release Nigel Leat, but did recommend he was suitable for a move to an open conditions prison in January 2017.

“The Ministry of Justice has the final decision on whether or not to accept a recommendation for open conditions.”

A spokesman added it complies with the victim’s code, which sets out how they are involved in parole process, and added: “As part of the parole process some victims are entitled to support and information about their case from a victim liaison officer within the National Probation Service.”

The spokesman said the Ministry of Justice is responsible for contacting victims throughout the parole process.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The parole board conducts a thorough risk assessment before recommending that someone serving an indeterminate sentence should be transferred to an open prison.

“However, public protection is our priority and the prison service retain the ability to recall an offender to a closed prison at the first sign of any concern. The parole board must also make a further decision before such an offender is released.”

The spokesman said the MOJ does not routinely comment on individual cases, and it is handling a full review of parole board rules to build on work to increase transparency and ensure victims are supported.