Former headmaster, Roland Peter Wright, went on trial last week accused of 15 charges of sexual abuse of a group of boys between September 1959 and August 1970. The abuse is alleged to have occurred during the time when he was master and subsequently headmaster at Caldicott Preparatory School in Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, (“the School”).
Wright has denied the various charges against him which include indecent assault and inciting children to commit gross indecency. The charges relate to 7 victims, however, more than a dozen complainants came forward to make allegations of abuse. It has been reported that the prosecuting barrister at the trial referred to witnesses describing an atmosphere of sexual disinhibition with some children having sexual contact among themselves and also stated that this was not discouraged by Wright but rather exploited by him.
It has also been alleged that another former teacher of the school, Hugh Henry, abused victims whilst at the School. Henry, has been charged with a number of sexual offences, some of which relate to when was a teacher at Gayhurst School in Gerrards Cross. Another former school worker, John Addrison, also has also been charged with sexual offences alleged to have been committed at the School between 1979-1981. He has also been charged with offences relating to Moor Park School near Ludlow, Shropshire between 1985-1988.
Victims first came forward in the early 2000s however criminal proceedings did not result in a trial due to legal reasons. Further victims came forward following this resulting in the current trial, which is continuing at Aylesbury Crown Court.
It is often difficult for victims of abuse to speak out about what happened and it is common for many victims to live with the effects of abuse for many years before being able to report it. This would not necessarily prevent any of the victims of abuse at the school from considering civil claims. It is invariably the case that child abuse claims are statute barred due to the limitation period of 3 years (running from the date of the knowledge or when the child reaches 18) having expired; however, the courts have recognised the difficulties that victims of abuse have in not being able to come forward until many years later and may therefore exercise their discretion under section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980 to disapply the relevant limitation period. It may, therefore, be possible for the victims to bring civil claims for the abuse that they suffered.
The abusers may be personally liable and therefore claims could be brought against them directly however this can be difficult if the defendant does not have sufficient means. It is also often the case in abuse cases that the perpetrators are deceased or uninsured. Again the courts have recognised the difficulties victims of abuse face in these situations by extending the law of vicarious liability. This allows claims to be brought against institutions responsible for the defendants where the defendant is employed or in a relationship akin to employment. For example, as it is likely that the abusers were employed by the schools, claims could be brought against the schools on the basis that they were vicariously liable for his actions. It has been reported that abuse took place both at the school and whilst on trips to Scotland. The fact that abuse occurred whilst on a trip away from the school would not prevent the school from being vicariously liable for the abuse.
We are pleased to hear that that the victims in this case were able to speak out. Slater and Gordon are currently instructed on a number of similar abuse cases and our specialist abuse team are familiar with dealing with cases of abuse and understand the difficulties victims face. If you would like to speak to one of our team about any of the issues raised in this article please contact us on 020 7657 1658/1653/1502 for free confidential advice. Any communication will dealt with in strict confidence.
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