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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 06:52 GMT 07:52 UK
Language group's U-turn on 'abuse' cash
John Owen (left) at court
John Owen killed himself before returning to court
The Welsh Language Society has reversed its decision to accept a six-figure sum from the will of a man at the centre of a sex-abuse scandal after claims it was "tainted" money.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg - the Welsh Language Society - has apologised unreservedly for the distress it had caused people allegedly abused by the late television writer and former teacher, John Owen.

Ffred Ffransis
Ffred Ffransis: "Cymdeithas apologies unreservedly"

The organisation had come under fire from the families of people who claim they were abused by Mr Owen, after it had initially decided to accept 100,000 from his will.

Mr Owen killed himself a year ago the day before he was due in court to face allegations of child abuse.

Cymdeithas spokesman Ffred Ffransis said the organisation - which had not yet received the cash - had been forced to rethink its stance after it had been contacted by some its own supporters who claim they were victims of Mr Owen.

They had said they would face further pain and suffering if the group, which campaigns to promote the Welsh language, accepted the money from Mr Owen's will.

The society, which admits to having finances in an almost permanent state of crisis, had previously defended the decision to accept the money.

Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke
Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke is running the inquiry

But in an interview on BBC Radio Wales, Mr Ffransis explained how and why the organisation had reversed its position.

"We acted on incorrect information," he said.

"Following the disclosures yesterday, a number of the people who have been through pain and suffering because of this terrible tragedy, they did contact us, as supporters of Cymdeithas yr Iaith.

"They told us personally that it would cause them further pain and suffering for us to take this money.

"As a result there were frantic phone calls all last night and we managed by midnight to contact all the senate members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith who were involved in the original decision and that decision has been reversed."

Plaid Cymru had also been offered money from Mr Owen's will but decided four months ago not to accept it.

Abuse allegations

Mr Owen - a former drama teacher who wrote the award-winning children's series, Pam Fi, Duw? (Why Me, God?), faced allegations of sexually assaulting pupils over a 10-year period when a teacher at Ysgol Rhydfelen, near Pontypridd.

An inquiry set up by Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke has been hearing evidence from former pupils who claim they were sexually abused by Mr Owen.

Witnesses - now adults - giving evidence at the hearing include one woman who alleged Mr Owen raped her in a private room after she refused to perform a sex act during an A-level practical examination.

A man, now a father, said he was forced to dance naked at practical drama exams.

Mr Owen was found dead in a seaside caravan last October.

The 49-year-old, from Tylorstown, Rhondda, south Wales, had taken a lethal overdose of morphine the day before he was due back in court.

Cymdeithas' decision has been given a tentative welcome by a Hywel James, a solicitor acting for a number of families giving evidence at the Clywch inquiry run by Mr Clarke.

Mr James welcomed the speed of the organisation's move after the criticisms were first raised.

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Ffred Ffransis, Welsh Language Society
"They told us personally that it would cause them further pain and suffering if we accepted this money."

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