An ex-pupil who says he was sexually abused at the £29,925-a-year Fettes College has called for a law banning in-house investigations, instead suggesting it should be made a crime not to report the allegations to police.
The former student at the exclusive independent school in Edinbugh has rejected an apology it made at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) earlier this week.
The inquiry heard the school wanted to make a ‘full and unreserved apology to those who have suffered abuse whilst at Fettes’.
Fettes College, Edinburgh admitted that ‘on occasions it did not act responsibly or appropriately, when evidence of abuse came to light’ ahead of evidence at the inquiry.
A former pupil, who also gave evidence to the SCAI, rejected the school’s apology and described the school’s actions as an attempt ‘to disguise criminal activity.’
The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believes future allegations and victims could be swept under the carpet unless there is legislative change.
Fettes College has told the Scottish Child Abuse Iniquiry that ‘on occasions it did not act responsibily or appropriately when evidence of abuse came to light’. The £29,000-a-year school has apologised to pupils, but one former student described the apology as ‘paper thin’
The former pupil spoke out after Fettes College issued a statement ahead of the latest phase of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry which is now looking into abuse allegations at boarding schools.
He believes there should be no ‘in house investigations’ to prevent future attacks and hold perpetrators accountable.
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 at resulted in the abuse of dozens more children over the years and as far as I am concerned they have simply done everything they can to sweep allegations – and indeed the victims – under the carpet.
‘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.’
In a statement read by Jonathan Brodie QC, the school said: ‘We want to offer a full and unreserved apology to those who suffered abuse while at Fettes College.
‘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.
Two teachers at Fettes admitted to sexual abuse and left the school. One former pupil who was abused said it should be a criminal offence not to immediately tell police when such allegations are raised
‘That there have been past occasions of abuse is evident in the review of school records, and speaking with former teachers and with former pupils.
‘Two former teachers admitted sexual abuse and were required to leave.
‘The school promises to listen and reflect on what is contained in the account and all evidence in the inquiry.’
The survivor is pursuing legal action 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 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.’
Fettes College said it would be inappropriate to comment further during the inquiry.
In its opening statement, it said: ‘The school recognises that words of apology, of themselves, may have limited worth.
‘Therefore, the School wants to be clear: Fettes accepts and recognises that in the past there have been occasions of sexual abuse, of physical abuse and of emotional abuse.’