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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The residential schools Investigation Report

Contents

J.2: Safeguarding at Ruthin School

5. Ruthin School is an independent day and boarding school for around 350 girls and boys in Denbighshire, North Wales.

6. Between 2010 and February 2020, the principal of Ruthin School was Mr Toby Belfield. Members of the council of management (COM), as charity trustees of Ruthin School Charity, were responsible for the overall control and management of the school. Ms Julie Oldbury was chair of the COM between September 2011 and February 2020.

7. In April 2019, a referral to Denbighshire County Council from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) raised concerns about the content of messages between Mr Belfield and a 15-year-old female pupil, RS-A343, via text and on social media.[1] The messages from Mr Belfield included references to her physical appearance and that of other girls and young women.[2]

8. Denbighshire County Council began an inquiry under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 and the All Wales Child Protection Procedures (a Part IV investigation).[3] In May 2019, it recommended that Mr Belfield be suspended and that Ruthin School commission an independent investigation into his actions. Ms Oldbury indicated in June 2019 that the investigation would be undertaken by a member of the COM. Denbighshire County Council and other institutions were concerned that this would not be independent.[4]

9. The COM then decided to commission an independent investigation into Mr Belfield’s conduct and appointed CMS Investigations, “a professional Investigation company that provides specialist operatives for corporate and legal clients throughout the UK”.[5] The CMS Investigations report, submitted to the COM in August 2019, concluded that the evidence did not suggest that Mr Belfield had harmed a child or presented a risk of harm, or that he would be unsuitable to work with children. It did find that there was a disciplinary case to answer for serious misconduct for inappropriate use of social media with pupils of the school, the inappropriate content of some of the messages and potential damage to the reputation of Ruthin School.[6] A disciplinary hearing took place in early September 2019 and the COM issued Mr Belfield with a final written warning. His suspension was lifted the following day and he returned to his role as principal.

10. A redacted copy of the CMS Investigations report was provided to Denbighshire County Council in October 2019 and shared with Estyn. As it contained new information, Denbighshire County Council convened a multi-agency steering group in November 2019 to discuss concerns relating to Mr Belfield and Ms Oldbury. Estyn and the Care Inspectorate Wales carried out a joint inspection in November 2019, after which Mr Belfield was again suspended.[7] The COM agreed to undertake a work-based risk assessment for Mr Belfield and, following a verbal summary from the independent consultant who undertook that assessment, the COM dismissed Mr Belfield in February 2020 with immediate effect.[8] Ms Oldbury resigned from the COM in February 2020.[9]

References

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