Fettes College abuse survivor secures landmark £400k settlement
A Fettes College abuse survivor who was beaten and sexually assaulted has received £400,000 in damages – the first known sum paid by the school.
The brave victim – known as ‘Frank’ – secured the landmark settlement decades after being abused by a former teacher. From the age of 12 he was repeatedly attacked after being targeted – he had his head banged off desks and was molested in the classroom.
It is the first known legal victory against the Edinburgh school which Frank now hopes will pave the way for others. He said: “It has never been about the money - Fettes had the opportunity back in 2005 to do the right thing but they tried to bury things rather than do right by the pupils who were in their care.”
Frank attended Fettes Junior School and Fettes College as a day student between 1975 and 1981.
It is thought the teacher – who cannot be named for legal reasons – singled Frank out as he showed signs of starting puberty earlier than other children. The attacks started with Frank being grabbed by the hair as he sat at his desk then having his neck whipped back.
This escalated into Frank having his head banged off desks and having heavy wooden dusters thrown at him or having his hair grabbed before the teacher violently forced his face into doors and walls.
Then after a few months the sexual attacks started.
Frank said: “He’d molest me while I stood at his desk as he marked my class work and one day when I was kept back at end of class he pinned me against a door frame and assaulted me.
“It was terrifying and I was frozen – I could even hear people walk past outside. It shows you how brazen and sick he was to do it with people just on the other side of the door in the corridor.
“I don’t know why I didn’t scream. But you need to understand that I was young at an all boy’s school and didn’t really comprehend what was being done to me. Also, at that time teachers had a supreme authority – it was like a totalitarian right-wing command structure where pupils were expected to obey regardless.
“As I got older I was overcome with feelings of severe embarrassment, anger and deep enduring distrust of authority.”
Frank and his mother reported the final and worst sexual assault to the school at the time. The outcome was simply that the teacher was sent on a one month sabbatical – but when he was reinstated Frank was still at school.
During the decades that followed Frank suffered from PTSD, flashbacks and depression. The abuse meant he left Fettes with poor qualifications which impacted his ability to secure a career.
In the mid-2000s Frank reported the abuse again – this time to the police as well as the school. But he recalled being utterly devastated by the response from each, recalling: “They both basically told me ‘What do you want us to do about it?’”
Frank therefore sought justice via a civil legal action against the Governors of the Fettes Trust which manages the school – and his case has now settled out of court for the six-figure sum.
After starting his legal action Frank also gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry about his traumatic experiences at the school. He now hopes his settlement will spark a landslide of similar results for other Fettes survivors and inspire others who have yet to speak out to finally step forwards.
Frank concluded: “Fettes’ failure to act on the information I provided – both at the time of the attacks before his sabbatical and more recently – allowed this serial abuser to go unchecked.
“I know I am not the only survivor of abuse at Fettes and I don’t believe my attacker was the only teacher.
“Many children were beaten – some until they were unconscious – and sexually abused and I would urge anyone to come forward as the shame is not yours. The process has been cathartic for me and even brought me in touch with other survivors and we are able to help each other.
“But to officials I have one final and important call – it’s about time the door was closed on organisations being able to quietly investigate allegations of abuse quietly ‘in house’.
“A mandatory requirement to report all abuse concerns to the police is the only way to detect predators and bring them to justice.”
Kim Leslie, partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, led the legal action against the trust.
She said: “Frank’s strength in speaking out is matched only by his strength in taking those responsible to court.
“Many abuse cases have been raised against Fettes but I believe Frank’s victory is the first that’s publicly known to be successful so I hope survivors may take hope from this result as they consider their own route to justice to get the damages and recognition they deserve.”