Abused former Harpenden pupil seeks apology from school
- Credit: Archant
More than 30 years after he was abused as a pupil at a local school, a millionaire businessman has been awarded thousands of pounds in damages.
But the former pupil of Aldwickbury School, Harpenden, who still has a house in St Albans and close links with the area, is not concerned about the money and wants the school to come clean about the abuse and issue an apology.
Using the name Nicholas Gibson – his real name is being withheld at his own request – the 45 year old is calling for far more transparency about that period at the school and is hoping other victims will come forward.
When he was aged 10 and 11, Nicholas was taught English by a teacher named Mulcahy Brown. who would perch on his desk, offer him a sweet and then sexually abuse him.
He said this week: “At that age it was my first sexual experience. When it was a teacher and in this case my form teacher, I felt incredibly confused. You feel guilty because it is exciting but you don’t understand it and you feel special.”
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He admitted that he thought he was the ‘chosen one’ and when the teacher sat on the desk of his classmates he felt a reaction akin to jealousy that it wasn’t him.
Years later – but before the Jimmy Savile cases came to light – he decided to take action when undergoing therapy after a relationship breakdown. He felt he needed some acknowledgement about what had happened to him.
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He was concerned that the teacher might still be alive and abusing other children and he wanted to reach out to other victims.
Nicholas went to Aldwickbury where he had a meeting with current head Vernon Hales who, he said, listened to him sympathetically but would not tell him whether the teacher was still alive – he learned later through his own investigations that Mulcahy Brown had died.
He also met with the school governors and at the time he felt they were receptive to the idea of putting something on the website which would demonstrate the school was being transparent and would offer counselling.
But in the event, he received a letter from the chairman of governors saying that after taking legal and other advice, the school had decided not to contact old boys.
Nine months later, in February 2013, he went to Herts Police – and learned that he was not the only person who had made a complaint against his former teacher. It was a relief, he said, to realise for the first time in 30 years, that events in the classroom were not his fault.
He said: “Herts Police were incredibly supportive, very thorough and so sensitive. It is very difficult to talk about his kind of thing.”
Because the teacher was dead, Nicholas had no option other than to pursue civil action and the school’s insurers settled in the sum of £10,000 and paid his legal costs.
But while admitting that the school is in a difficult position, he still believes it has not gone far enough. “I don’t think my situation is in any way worse than others but transparency is the only way forward. Thirty years ago the school swept this under the carpet and it is still sweeping it under the carpet.”
He added: “What I would like to see is maximum transparency which would be good for the people who suffered and make the school stronger.”
He urged other victims to contact solicitor Alan Collins of the firm Slater and Gordon on either 0207 998 8818/0203 620 0661 or email him at Alan.firstname.lastname@example.org
Aldwickbury head, Mr Hales said this week: “A while ago, Aldwickbury was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse against a former member of staff (now deceased) whilst he was working at the school in the 1970s.
“The school has reported the allegations to the relevant authorities and has been informed that they do not intend to take any further action. Please be assured that these allegations have no bearing on the current pupils and staff of the school.”
He went on: “All child abuse is horrendous and to be deplored. We extend our deepest sympathy to the victims of abuse and even when the cases are historic, this does not lessen the anguish that they feel.”
Mr Hales stressed that the school took child protection “extremely seriously” and operated a clear safeguarding policy.