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Clifton College apologises over its handling of paedophile teachers

Prestigious public school Clifton College has apologised for its handling of historic child sexual abuse claims after employing two teachers who preyed on pupils.

An inquiry heard that the £12,000-a-term Bristol school failed to act on concerns raised against the male staff members, both later convicted of sexual offences. 

In the 1990s teachers were told that colleague Stephen Johnston’s flat had become a ‘den of vice’ with a ‘constant stream of boys going in and out’.

And around the same time Jonathan Thomson-Glover began secretly recording pupils for his own sexual gratification for 16 years, as well as abusing boys at his holiday home. 

The inquiry heard that concerns had been raised about him for year but were not escalated by school authorities.

Jonathan Thomson-Glover

Stephen Johnston in 2008

Prestigious public school Clifton College has apologised for its handling of historic child sexual abuse claims after employing two teachers, Stephen Johnston, right and Jonathan Thomson-Glover, left, who preyed on pupils

An inquiry heard that the £12,000-a-term Bristol school (pictured) failed to act on concerns raised against the male staff members, both later convicted of sexual offences

An inquiry heard that the £12,000-a-term Bristol school (pictured) failed to act on concerns raised against the male staff members, both later convicted of sexual offences

Nick Tolchard, council chairman at Clifton College, said: ‘We are deeply apologetic as a school for what happened to pupils that, you know, expect care to take place.

‘We feel, as a school, we have let down children and their parents in the past, and we do apologise unreservedly for anything that we did or didn’t do as a college.’

Thomson-Glover, former housemaster, was convicted and jailed for of making, taking and possessing indecent videos using hidden cameras in 2015.

He was later found to have sexually abused children at his holiday home in Cornwall and handed a further sentence.

It emerged at the inquiry that authorities were not initially told by the then headmaster about annual trips he took with pupils to his property.

Former headmaster Mark Moore said that it ‘didn’t occur’ to him to inform police about Thomson-Glover’s actions, adding that not doing so was a ‘missed opportunity’.

A former pupil told the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) inquiry that he had been told he was one of a number of boys who was filmed by Thomson-Glover.

Former headmaster Mark Moore said that it 'didn't occur' to him to inform police about Thomson-Glover's actions, adding that not doing so was a 'missed opportunity'

Former headmaster Mark Moore said that it ‘didn’t occur’ to him to inform police about Thomson-Glover’s actions, adding that not doing so was a ‘missed opportunity’

Now an adult, the man said he felt that the issue was concealed by the school and said didn’t even receive an apology.

He said: ‘The school’s approach was very much, “Don’t talk about it. Sweep it under the carpet. It’s embarrassing to talk about”.’

Mr Moore, headmaster between 2005 and 2015, used his appearance at the inquiry to apologise, calling it ‘my failing’.

He said: ‘I would like to apologise unreservedly and unconditionally for our failing, my failing, to uncover, to discover, the offending behaviour of a particular individual.’

He also denied that a letter sent to parents at the time of Thomson-Glover’s departure stating that he had resigned due to ‘personal reasons’ was ‘misleading’.

He said: ‘I never intended to mislead anybody. I think, sins of omission rather than sins of commission, and I hold my hand up to failing in that respect.

‘In retrospect, they look like the wrong decisions. I can see that.’

The school also employed teacher Johnston, who was convicted of ‘very serious sexual offences’ against a Clifton College pupil in the 1990s.

The inquiry was told that his flat was referred to as a ‘den of vice’ in a complaint made by another teacher because of the ‘constant stream of boys going in and out’.

But the response by another senior member of staff was ‘what happens in a private flat off the school’s grounds is nothing to do with the headmaster’.

The school later hired a PR firm to deal with any ‘negative press’ when Johnston went to trial, it was said.

He was convicted of five counts of indecent assault and one count of buggery and jailed in 2008.

Nicola Laird, the local authority designated officer of Bristol City Council, also gave evidence at the hearing. 

Ms Laird said that it felt previously that Clifton College was ‘trying to protect [its] reputation, rather than thinking about being open and honest’.

But she added: ‘I think there’s been a huge change in the culture and ethos of Clifton… I would say they’re now an outward-looking organisation that is really keen to engage with support of the local authority, for example, the Safeguarding in Education team.’

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