- Some of country’s most expensive schools are facing legal action
- Compensation claims of up to £400,000 could close schools say experts
- Boris Johnson’s former school among those accused of abuse
- In December the Mail on Sunday revealed Ashdown House faced action
More than 20 private schools are involved in child sex abuse investigations after dozens of victims came forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Some of the country’s leading institutions, including those attended by Nick Clegg, Boris Johnson and Tony Blair, face accusations of covering up abuse for decades. The allegations include rape.
Lawyers acting for the alleged victims are demanding up to £400,000 in compensation for the years of abuse they suffered.
Those seeking redress include former pupils at Beeston Hall, a £21,000-a-year prep school in Norfolk. Mervyn Rush, 68, who taught science at the school in the 1970s, was jailed for 14 years in August last year after pleading guilty to 18 charges of sexual abuse against ten boys aged between eight and 12.
Victims were emboldened to come forward following the Savile scandal, according to one lawyer.Jessica Standley, of law firm Slater and Gordon, said: ‘There has been an increase in victims reporting abuse suffered at a variety of institutions, including fee-paying schools. Sadly, in many of these cases those in positions of authority knew of the abuse and failed to take adequate steps to protect innocent children.’
With compensation claims of up to £400,000 per victim, the financial repercussions of these historical cases could cause the closure of some prep schools, claims Tony Little, head of Eton College. It is possible [some will have to close] but it is absolutely right this problem is exposed,’ he said.Some 20 former pupils of Ashdown House in East Sussex, which was attended by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Homeland actor Damian Lewis, claim that staff committed ‘very serious abuse’ on children aged between seven and 13 during the 1970s. The £23,000-a-year boarding school is a feeder school for Eton and Harrow.
Victims at Mr Clegg’s old prep school, £22,000-a-year Caldicott, in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire, are also suing for damages.
Peter Wright, who was Mr Clegg’s headmaster, is awaiting sentence after being found guilty last month of a series of sex offences. The Chorister School in Durham, the £18,000-a-year prep school attended by Mr Blair, recently settled a series of sex abuse claims.
Police investigated allegations by 23 former pupils that they had been sexually abused by Canon John Grove, who was headmaster from 1957 to 1978.
But the investigation ended without any criminal charges as Canon Grove died in 2001 and police found no evidence against anyone still alive.
Many victims say they simply want justice after years of staying silent. One, a 60-year-old man who attended Chorister, said: ‘All I really wanted was an apology from the school and the church.
‘The Savile disgrace has made it easier for victims to come forward.’
Beeston Hall has confirmed that its lawyers are handling claims for damages.
No one at Ashdown House, Chorister or Caldicott was available for comment yesterday.