Malsis School failed in its duty of care to halt sexual abuse of pupils
Dino Nocivelli explains why a Court of Appeal judgment relating to abuse at Malsis School highlights the urgent need for mandatory reporting.
Posted on 27 April 2023
Further to my recent blog on abuse that took place by teachers David Hope and Peter Holmes at Malsis School, I have recently been instructed by a number of men to consider the extent that the headteacher and other staff knew about the abuse and failed to stop it.
Hope was a former music teacher who having previously being convicted in the 1990s was convicted again last year for child abuse offences and is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence.
Holmes was a former rugby coach and English teacher and he was also convicted last year for child abuse offences and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.
Knowledge about abuse is a difficult issue to approach and one that needs to be carefully handled, but at the core the allegation is that abuse continued and that children came into contact with potential abusers because the school failed their duty of care.
At the time of the offending by Hope and Holmes there was no mandatory reporting law, that is, there was no law in place to punish someone like a headteacher for failing to act and report abuse allegations to the police.
Sadly even if these offences took place today there is still no law to punish someone such as this hypothetical headteacher and it is why I support the Government's decision to follow the recommendation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and to bring in mandatory reporting. It is noted however that questions remain as to the standard of mandatory reporting that will be brought in, and importantly, when it will finally be done.
Going back to the case of Malsis School, Holmes recently tried to appeal his conviction but the Court of Appeal rejected this.
It is noted in paragraph 28 and 29 of this judgment that a child who had been sexually abused by Holmes was able to disclose to a teacher at the time about the abuse and this teacher had "concerns from boys going into Mr Holmes' flat in a state of partial undress". The teacher reported these concerns to the headmaster who then said in a staff meeting that any concerns raised by parents should be directed to him.
The headmaster spoke to Holmes about his "conduct" as noted in paragraph 87 of the Court of Appeal judgment, but it did not change anything and Holmes continued as before. As the Court of Appeal states, as a result of the "school showing utter disregard for the welfare of the pupils" it meant Holmes "was able to act with virtual impunity".
The headteacher and school failed my clients and other children at the school, and these failings resulted in their abuse continuing and Holmes being able to abuse new children.
The abuse could and should have been stopped, and the headteacher should be facing criminal repercussions for failing to act appropriately in relation to the concerns, for failing in their duty of care to these children and serious questions need to be asked as to why their failed to act.
Was it incompetence? Was it to cover up the abuse? Was it to retain the status of the school? Was it for financial gain as they were concerned that pupils may leave the school and take their tuition fees with them? Was it simply a lack of care and a lack of appreciation of the impact of the abuse?
The headteacher should be banned from teaching for life at the very minimum as they clearly lack the ability to put the safeguarding of children at the forefront of their role.
We need mandatory reporting in this country as soon as possible and even though the law cannot be applied retrospectively to someone such as the headteacher at Malsis School, we must do all that we can to prevent similar headteachers failing to act again and if they do, then we need to use the full force of the criminal law to punish such individuals.
To fail to protect children and to in essence cover up child abuse is unacceptable and we have to use all the resources available to stop these horrendous assaults on children.
If you have any information about staff at Malsis School being aware of abuse by Holmes and/or Hope, then please contact me on 020 7650 1397 or email@example.com
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