Former Fettes College pupil rejects ‘paper thin’ apology for abuse - and calls for new laws to ban in-house investigations

A former pupil of Fettes College has rejected their “paper thin” apology to those who were abused at the school - and called for new laws to ban in-house investigations.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 4:45 pm

The abuse survivor, who did not want to be named, spoke out after being disappointed by the statement made by the fee-paying Edinburgh school earlier this week.

Ahead of evidence at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI), the school admitted “on occasions it did not act responsibly or appropriately, when evidence of abuse came to light.”

But the survivor, who gave evidence to the inquiry, believes these failures meant abuse allegations and victims could be “swept under the carpet” and the only way to prevent future attacks and hold perpetrators accountable is now legislative change.

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Fettes College in Edinburgh. Pic: Neil Hanna

He said: “I utterly reject Fettes College’s paper thin apology.

“These are real children psychologically maimed and lives blighted by inaction and deliberate attempts to disguise criminal activity.

“In my case the man who sexually assaulted me was reported to the school at the time and the school did not attempt to investigate the matter – even though I had witnesses.

“Instead the school chose to put my abuser on one month’s sabbatical so he could ‘get his head together’.

“The inaction resulted in the abuse of dozens more children over the years.

“I believe the only way forward to stop institutional abuse – whether schools, religious groups or sports clubs – is to make it a statutory offence to not report the matter immediately to the police.

“When it comes to allegations of abuse there should be no ‘in house investigations’ – these are crimes we are talking about so it makes sense to have Police Scotland conduct impartial investigations.”

‘Unreserved’ apology

The latest phase of the SCAI is looking into abuse allegations at boarding schools.

In a statement read via Jonathan Brodie QC, the school said they wanted to make a “full and unreserved apology to those who have suffered abuse whilst at Fettes.”

The statement said: “While words of apology may have limited worth, we fully accept and recognise in the past there was sexual, physical and emotional abuse of pupils while at Fettes College.

“That has been the result of certain members of staff and by failing to prevent peer-to-peer bullying.

“The school recognises that on occasions it did not act responsibly or appropriately, when evidence of abuse came to light. It is a matter of profound regret. What the school seeks to do now is to listen.”

They said past occasions of abuse were evident in school records and from speaking with former teachers and pupils, and two ex teachers admitted sexual abuse and were required to leave.

Two men told the Edinburgh Evening News earlier this month that they are considering a private prosecution after the Crown office decision not to extradite the teacher who they say abused them in the mid 1970s.

One victim said he was taken into a changing room and beaten to the extent of “blacking out” and ended up in a school sanatorium for medical treatment for ten days.

Both men said the teacher, who now lives in South Africa, would fondle them at his desk when they went up to receive feedback on their work, and that he would be “openly violent” to pupils during class.

The survivor who rejected the apology currently has a legal action underway with Digby Brown solicitors.

Kim Leslie, specialist abuse lawyer at Digby Brown, said: “We are pursuing a court action to make Fettes liable for the actions of their former employee.

“The failure to report matters to the police at the time and the recent COPFS (Crown Office) decision not to seek extradition closed doors to the alleged abuser being prosecuted.

“But lack of prosecution does not mean a survivor cannot take further action as a conviction is not always required in the civil courts.

“We will continue to support our client in his case against Fettes College but as it is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

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