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Sexual abuse settlement against Methodist Independent Schools Trust

Four men who say they were sexually abused at a public school in Devon have settled their claims

Posted on 06 April 2016

Four men who suffered sexual abuse as children at a public school in Devon have settled their claims against the Methodist Independent Schools Trust which is responsible for the school.

The men allege that they were abused by Simon Harris whilst they were boarding at Shebbear College.  Simon Harris was a teacher and a deputy house master, employed at the school during the 1980’s.

In December 2014, 55-year-old Harris was jailed for abusing three of the men from Shebbear College and a number of vulnerable street children in Kenya, who the firm also represents. Harris was active in Kenya while he was running a gap year charity he set up in Gilgil in the 1990s.

Methodist Independent Schools Trust owns, and is the managing body responsible for Shebbear College.

The legal action against the Trust alleged that they were vicariously liable for Harris’ actions and that they had a duty to the children in their care to ensure they did not suffer harm or injury as a result of the actions of those working at the school.

Harris worked at the school until 1989 when he left as a result of allegations of sexual abuse. The men claimed that Harris had indecently assaulted them in their beds and within their dormitory at the school.

Rebekah Read, a lawyer in the international abuse team at Leigh Day said:

“We are pleased to have obtained compensation for these individuals. This is a case where the abuse was blatant. Harris was then allowed to leave the school and later travelled to Kenya where he continued abusing children.

"The judge who sentenced Harris in his criminal trial last year said he had designed his life to be close to boys, Judge Philip Parker QC said:  'it suited you to be in education. It gave you kudos and it also provided a source of boys.’”

Ms Read explained: "This case highlights why it is imperative that individuals who are alleged to have abused children in the UK are the subject of thorough investigation and if appropriate, are prevented from travelling abroad. We see too many cases where more should have been done in the UK to prevent child abusers from escaping overseas to abuse, often with impunity.”