South East Wales

School abuse victims paid £350,000 by Cardiff council

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Media captionCardiff council said the claims were settled with no admission of liability

Seven men who say they were sexually abused while pupils at a former Cardiff school in the 1960s and 1970s have received about £350,000 in payouts since 2011, BBC Wales has learnt.

David Leighton Davies, an art teacher at Cyntwell High School in Ely, is alleged to have carried out the abuse.

The allegations range from sexual touching to rape.

Cardiff council said the claims were settled by insurers with no admission of liability.

"This is another tragic example of the way in which lives of individuals have been marred as a result of professional abuse," said Wales' children's commissioner Keith Towler.

"Financial compensation is not going to mend the harm that has been done but it does provide the clear and crucial message that the victims have been believed."

He added: "Childhood sexual abuse has a devastating effect on the emotional well-being and mental health of victims. We all have a duty to listen to children and young people and to protect them."

Davies was convicted of sexual offences against three 15-year-old boys in 1977 and died shortly after his release from prison in 1980. Those attacks took place away from the school, which had closed in 1972.

One of the seven men, who has received £24,000 from Cardiff council, said he was sexually assaulted by Davies on school premises.

'Feel disgusted'

He said the attacks took place over a two-year period when he was aged between 13 and 15.

"They happened a few days a week when I had art," he said.

"We went in the cupboard for paint... he'd be in there in his tweed suit, smoking his cigarettes.

"He molested me - my education suffered.

"What he done to me practically ruined my life. My education suffered, my marriages suffered. He totally wrecked it.

"I feel dirty and I've felt dirty for years. You just feel disgusted.

"To me [the payment is] not an apology for what I went through. It's just compensation.

"If I lost my arm I'd get compensation. But the feeling of what I've been through is still on my mind and I still push my wife away so it's never going to go away, it'll be there."

The individual settlements are understood to range from £10,000 to £66,000 and were paid out at various points over the last three years.

In total, the council has paid £197,500 in damages and £146,500 to cover the claimants' legal costs.

'Cathartic experience'

Solicitor Charles Derham, who acted for several of the claimants, said that settlements like these often make individuals feel better even if the organisation paying out does not accept liability, as in this case with Cardiff council.

"Generally for most individuals they find it a very cathartic experience as able to draw some kind of closure from the matter and draw a line in the sand," he said.

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Media captionOne of the men, whose words are spoken by an actor, said his life was 'wrecked'

"For many individuals they're able to then move on with life and try and put the past behind them and acknowledge the settlement not only as financial compensation for what they went through but also as a recognition for what happened to them and they're able to understand and appreciate that for once they're actually being believed."

In a statement the council said: "Claims have been received by Cardiff council with regard to alleged sexual abuse relating to Cyntwell High School dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, whilst under the responsibility of one of Cardiff council's predecessor authorities."

The claims were settled out of court by the authority's insurers with no admission of liability, the statement said.

Victims 'believed'

"The council is unable to release further information regarding these allegations due to confidentiality and the protection given to sensitive personal information of this type under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998," it added.

Settling the claims without admitting liability means that if any future claim was to arise regarding Davies, the council would be free to defend it if it wanted to.

ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen said councils should publicise these settlements, saying transparency was "absolutely fundamental" for several reasons.

"One is in the interests of the victims, they want it to be absolutely clear they've been believed and that action has been taken to compensate them for the terrible crimes committed against them.

"The other is because there may still be other victims who are too intimidated, too horrified by the memory for many, many, different reasons to do with shame and to do with current relationships.

"But once they hear that people have come forward and been believed this inspires them to come forward.

"That's happened with the Savile victims, we know that, and with other people who are survivors of abuse."

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