Fettes College pays £400,000 damages to former pupil allegedly 'beaten and molested' by teacher

Scotland’s most expensive private school has paid a six-figure sum in damages to a former pupil who alleged he was molested and beaten by a teacher.

Fettes College, whose alumni include ex-Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair and boarding fees can reach £36,500, was sued by the man who gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

The agreed £400,000 in damages is the first known legal victory against the prestigious Edinburgh school which Frank now hopes will pave the way for others.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In harrowing testimony the man – known only as ‘Frank’ – claimed he was ‘beaten and sexually abused’ by the ex-maths teacher.

Fettes College is facing up to 20 damages claims and payments could total £15 million
Pic: PAFettes College is facing up to 20 damages claims and payments could total £15 million
Pic: PA
Fettes College is facing up to 20 damages claims and payments could total £15 million Pic: PA

Frank, now 67, raised a personal damages action reportedly for £1 million at the Court of Session against the Governors of the Fettes Trust which manages the school.

His claim has now been settled out of court while the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) attempt to extradite the teacher at the centre of the claims from South Africa.

Frank said: “It has never been about the money. Fettes had the opportunity back in 2005 to do the right thing but they tried to bury things rather than do right by the pupils who were in their care.”

Twenty former pupils have raised actions for damages with more than a dozen naming the same former master. Payments could total more than £15 million.

Frank claims he was repeatedly sexually molested and physically assaulted in a classroom by the married man – named only as ‘Edgar’ – from the age of 12.

He attended Fettes Junior School and Fettes College as a day student between 1975 and 1981.

It is claimed that Edgar singled Frank out as he showed signs of starting puberty earlier than other children.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The alleged attacks started with Frank being grabbed by the hair as he sat at his desk then having his neck whipped back.

The violence allegedly escalated and became sexual assaults.

Frank claimed: “He’d molest me while I stood at his desk as he marked my class work and one day when I was kept back at end of class he pinned me against a door frame and assaulted me.

“It was terrifying and I was frozen – I could even hear people walk past outside.

“At that time teachers had a supreme authority – it was like a totalitarian right-wing command structure where pupils were expected to obey regardless.”

Frank and his mother reported their allegations to the school and Edgar was sent on a one month sabbatical then reinstated.

During the decades that followed Frank suffered from PTSD, flashbacks and depression.

He left Fettes with poor qualifications which impacted his ability to secure a career.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the mid-2000s Frank reported his claims to the school and Police Scotland but no action was taken.

He is one of a number of the former pupils who say they were the victims of physical and sexual assaults at Edgar’s hands.

The COPFS initially refused to extradite Edgar citing a time-bar on certain historic abuse crimes, the age of the accused and delays to the extradition process being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It later reversed that decision and extradition procedures are now under way.

The allegations against Edgar were first publicly aired at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry last November.

It heard that Fettes College sent Edgar to be treated at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and he returned to the school for a further three-and-a-half years.

The accusations were not reported to police by then headmaster Anthony Chenevix-Trench.

A witness, named only as Michael, who was the headmaster of Fettes Junior School at the time, said the alleged abuse came to light when Frank told his mother that Edgar had touched him in spring 1975.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He told the inquiry: “Edgar did not deny he had touched that boy. In my view Edgar admitted his offence, he never said that he did not do it.”

Edgar later returned to the school and continued teaching for three-and-a-half years until more allegations followed in 1979 along with similar claims in South Africa dating from the late 60s.

Fresh allegations followed and Edgar was sacked – but given a glowing reference by Mr Chenevix-Trench who described his as “definitely a thoroughbred”.

The reference also stated that Edgar “came out of a good stable” and was “a good games player”.

Frank hopes his case will prompt further legal actions and see the report of all abuse concerns to the police made mandatory.

He added: “I know I am not the only survivor of abuse at Fettes and I don’t believe my attacker was the only teacher.

“Many children were beaten – some until they were unconscious – and sexually abused and I would urge anyone to come forward as the shame is not yours.

“It’s about time the door was closed on organisations being able to quietly investigate allegations of abuse quietly ‘in house’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“A mandatory requirement to report all abuse concerns to the police is the only way to detect predators and bring them to justice.”

Kim Leslie, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, said: “Frank’s strength in speaking out is matched only by his strength in taking those responsible to court.

“Many abuse cases have been raised against Fettes but I believe Frank’s victory is the first that’s publicly known to be successful so I hope survivors may take hope from this result as they consider their own route to justice to get the damages and recognition they deserve.”

Fettes also counts actor Tilda Swinton, a string of high court judges, UK Government cabinet ministers and captains of industry among its alumni.

In a statement to the SCAI, it made “full and unreserved apology".

It said: “While words of apology may have limited worth, we fully accept and recognise in the past there was sexual, physical and emotional abuse of pupils while at Fettes College.