A former music teacher at a preparatory school is currently on trial for sexual offences against four former pupils.
John Clark, 79, has pleaded not guilty to 26 offences – 24 counts of indecent assault and two counts of buggery – alleged to have been committed whilst he was the music director of Aldro School in Shackleford, Surrey between 1975 and 1981.
The trial is ongoing at the moment but a very unusual claim has been raised by the defence, that of mistaken identity.
What the Defence Argues
Although they are not disputing that the four boys were abused, defence lawyers argue that John Clark was not the abuser.
The court heard the defence counsel tell one of the survivors that, although he was “abused in clearly a disgusting way” that it was “not by the hands of this man but by another.”
Defence counsel argued that it was former assistant organ master Laurie Paine, now deceased, who abused the boys.
Slater and Gordon’s specialist team of Abuse Lawyers are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse and are advising in relation to the John Clark case. Many of the survivors we represent were abused at institutions such as schools and by people in high positions of trust like John Clark – and we know just how much courage it takes for survivors to come forward. The former pupils who allege they were abused by John Clark have shown immense courage in speaking out and the defence are taking a somewhat tasteless approach to the way they are casting doubt on the survivors’ allegations.
The court heard one of the survivors allege that Clark abused him on two occasions, saying: “It was not something I wanted to do. He was a teacher, and in my environment you did what your teacher told you.” This tells us about the immense power that people in positions of trust, such as teachers at private schools, have over their vulnerable pupils.
Another survivor told the court how Clark had abused him “several times a week for a couple of years.” Giving evidence, the same survivor said, “He never confronted you, forced himself or challenged you. The modern term for it is ‘grooming’.”
The four brave survivors who spoke out about the alleged abuse – and who are currently going through a harrowing trial in which they are recalling appalling offences committed against them – deserve better than to simply be told that they’ve got the wrong man.
The trial continues.
Jessica Standley is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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