Page last updated at 09:23 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 10:23 UK

Teacher sex abuse victims' payout

John Owen
John Owen killed himself before he could be brought to trial

Eight victims of sexual abuse at a school, who had planned to sue a council for compensation, have settled out of court.

They were indecently assaulted by drama teacher John Owen in Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, Pontypridd, who worked there for 17 years.

Four former pupils came forward with the allegations in 2001, but Owen killed himself before his trial.

The compensation totals in the eight cases have not been disclosed.

James & Bulteel solicitors, Cardiff, who are representing the eight victims, said the civil proceedings arose out of the assaults by Owen and from the alleged negligence of Mid Glamorgan Education Authority, which has been succeeded by Rhondda Cynon Taf council.

"The matter was due to proceed as a trial at the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre but the claims by the victims of sexual assault have all now been settled," they said in a statement.

"As a result of negotiations between solicitors for the victims and solicitors for the defendant's insurers, settlement has now been achieved in the eight cases which were due to be tried before Cardiff County Court.

It was never the motivation of the victims to seek financial compensation
Hywel James, victims' solicitor

"In all cases this has resulted in payment of damages being made to the victims on behalf of the local authority's insurers.

"The damages figures remain confidential but do reflect the significant pain and suffering of the victims."

Owen, a former pupil of the school, began teaching there in 1974 but resigned in 1991 following allegations about his unorthodox teaching methods and conduct.

In 2001 he was charged with five counts of indecent assault but the day before he was due in court in October of that year he was found dead in a caravan at Treco Bay, Porthcawl.

The Clywch inquiry into the abuse was launched in March 2002 and detailed evidence of fresh allegations of sex abuse was made by former pupils and their parents at the hearings.

The resulting report, by Wales' late children's commissioner Peter Clarke, described how Owen serially sexually abused pupils over a period of two decades.

It demanded major changes in protection for school children and made 31 recommendations to minimise future risk after the inquiry.

Two years ago, concerns were raised after it emerged that not all of the report's recommendations were met.

At the time, the assembly government said it was committed to delivering them all.

'Severe trauma'

Hywel James, a partner of James & Bulteel, who represented the victims both during the inquiry and the civil proceedings, said they believed Mr Clarke's recommendations needed to be fully implemented.

"I am extremely pleased that this matter has been resolved without the victims of John Owen having to endure the further trauma of a civil trial," he said.

"It was never the motivation of the victims to seek financial compensation. Their main wish throughout had been to expose the criminal acts of the late John Owen and the failures of those in authority as identified by the Clywch inquiry.

"However the victims did suffer severe trauma which has been confirmed by independent medical evidence. The settlement sums, whilst never fully redressing the damage caused is some acknowledgment of their suffering."

Mr James said the settlement, in part, drew a line under issues which arose from the inquiry.



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