Parents to sue council over paedophile teacher Nigel Leat's crimes
PARENTS whose children were victims of predatory paedophile teacher Nigel Leat are to sue his employer North Somerset Council for damages.
Solicitors firm Slee Blackwell is acting for a "number" of families whose children became victims of Leat who was jailed indefinitely last year for a string of sexual crimes against children at Hillside First School in Worle.
Leat admitted a total of 36 offences against five female students – some as young as six – on school property from September 2006 to July 2010. The crimes were one count of attempted rape, eight sexual assaults by penetration and 23 further sexual assaults. Father of two Leat also admitted charges of voyeurism; causing or inciting a child aged under 13 to engage in a sexual act; possessing more than 30,000 indecent photographs and movies of children, and possessing extreme pornography.
The families are making civil claims for damages against the local education authority and it is believed compensation could run into five-figure sums for each of those affected.
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It is also believed that historic victims of Leat may now come forward and could also make a claim for damages against the authority.
Under the principle of vicarious liability, the council could be legally responsible to Leat's victims where abuse was committed by him while he was acting in the course of his employment.
They have two options – to bring a civil action against the authority for failing to stop Leat abusing children in its care.
Their second option is to make a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) which is a government scheme to compensate victims of crimes of violence.
Slee Blackwell partner Sam Robson said: "I can confirm we are acting for a number of families affected by the Leat case.
"Given the period of time over which the abuse was perpetrated it is likely that there are many unidentified victims who have yet to come forward.
"There are time limits in which victims can bring an abuse claim. In the case of children the time limit is three years from their eighteenth birthday.
"However for historic cases of abuse the courts may apply discretion on the time limit if the date has passed."
A serious case review was carried out by North Somerset Safeguarding Children Board following the arrest and conviction of Leat.
The review looked at what happened, where, why and how and what measures could be taken from preventing it happening again.
North Somerset Council spokesman Nick Yates said: "I can confirm we have received a number of claims in relation to the Leat case."