Concerns over sex abuse teacher Nigel Leat not passed on

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Media captionPaedophile Nigel Leat buries his head during police interview

Concerns had been raised about the behaviour of a primary school teacher two years before he was arrested for abusing the children he taught.

Nigel Leat, 51, was jailed indefinitely on Tuesday after filming himself sexually abusing children at Hillside First School, Weston-super-Mare.

A colleague of Leat's raised concerns about his behaviour but this was never passed on to North Somerset Council.

The head was suspended in January as a serious case review was launched.

Bristol Crown Court heard that the school's deputy head spoke to Leat in 2008 about being too tactile with the girls in his class. No further action was taken.

The council said the head teacher was suspended after investigations raised questions about leadership at the school.

Everybody 'manipulated'

Sheila Smith, the head of children's services at the local council, said a teaching assistant had raised concerns about how Leat's actions could be "misinterpreted".

"Her concern for him was taken up within the school and he was warned about how his behaviour could be misinterpreted.

"On the information that has been brought to light it would seem it didn't meet the threshold for a child protection investigation which is when it would have come to us.

"It was dealt with within the school because it was a concern for a teacher not about a teacher."

She added that Leat had "manipulated" everybody around him to allow him to abuse the children.

Judge Neil Ford told Leat, of Bloomfield Road, his "treatment of the girls was clever, cunning, insidious and wicked".

He said: "You were able to behave in this way because you were a teacher entrusted to look after children.

"I believe you represent a risk of serious harm to young girls. You have a strong paedophilic drive."

'Most sick'

Leat had earlier admitted 36 sexual offences including attempted rape, 22 of sexual assault and eight of other serious sexual offences. He also had 30,500 indecent photographs in his possession.

He will only be released when he is no longer considered a threat, danger or risk to the public and especially young girls.

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Media captionDet Supt Geoff Wessell: ''Nigel Leat is a predatory paedophile of the most sickening order''

Leat was given an indeterminate sentence with a minimum tariff of 24 years, which the judge said was the punitive period of punishment for his offences.

He will serve at least eight-and-a-half years before he can be considered for parole.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Leat sat with his head bowed looking at the floor.

Families of the children sobbed as they listened to the judge outlining Leat's offences.

Det Supt Geoff Wessell, of Avon and Somerset Police, said Leat had abused the children in the "most sick" way.

"The abuse of trust, I have never come across anything so extreme as this. I hope the sentence will bring comfort to the school."

Mr Wessell said work with the victims and wider community was continuing.

Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose said he wanted to see Leat "rot in jail for a very long time".

"I have spoken to the council and they assure me that they are working with the school to heal the wounds caused by this terrible episode," he added.

Star pupils

On Friday, the court was told how Leat molested the girls as they practised their reading aloud in class.

Police said he used to identify "star pupils" and shower them with gifts before abusing them in one-to-one reading sessions.

Leat could be heard in the films referring to the girls as "sweetie pie" and "darling" and asking them how much they loved him.

The videos, in most of which Leat could be seen, showed girls were abused in the school's staff room and a resource room.

Leat, a father-of-two, initially denied all the claims against him, but he confessed after police found the films on his home computer.

After police arrested him on 13 December last year, they discovered the thousands of indecent photographs and 720 indecent movies in his possession.

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