A primary school teacher who filmed himself sexually abusing his pupils could be freed from jail within a month.
Described as a “predatory paedophile”, Nigel Leat captured on camera the attacks he carried out on five young girls over the course of five years at Hillside First School, in Weston-super-Mare.
Leat, who is now in his 60s and is also known by the surname Russell, was jailed indefinitely in 2011 after admitting 36 offences including attempted rape of a child and sexual assault.
The mother of one of his victims said the news has left her daughter “terrified” of bumping into Leat, originally from Brislington, and reliving the trauma all over again.
Leat – described as a paedophile of the ‘most sickening order’ – lured children with gifts and notes before sexually abusing them in a classroom.
He used to identify “star pupils” and shower them with gifts before abusing them in one-to-one reading sessions at the school.
The father-of-two would then molest girls as young as six as they practised their reading aloud in class and get them to perform sex acts on him at the same time.
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 abuse, which took place over 13 years, was finally uncovered in 2011, when a child told her parents.
When he was arrested, officers found more than 30,000 indecent photographs and over 700 movies in his possession.
Leat was jailed indefinitely after admitting 36 offences against young girls at the school.
His charges, which included one of attempted rape, 22 of sexually assaulting a child under 13 and eight of sexual assault by penetration, were described by police as some of the worst they had ever seen.
Papers detailing the Parole Board decision said: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the other evidence presented at the hearings, the panel was satisfied that Mr Leat was suitable for release when accommodation becomes available in November 2020.”
According to the Parole Board document, at the time of his crimes Leat believed it was “acceptable to groom and sexually abuse children” and he was “thinking a lot about sex”.
It added: “He had lacked self-confidence in some situations and had tended not to confront his problems. He had also lacked appropriate intimate adult relationships.”
According to the report, Leat had taken part in “accredited programmes to address his sex offending”, with his behaviour behind bars reported to be “very good”.
The panel was told he was not an “imminent” risk in the community and all the witnesses who gave evidence – his probation officer, prison psychologist and prison offender manager – recommended that release on licence “would be safe at this point”.
Ministry of Justice officials were also party to proceedings, while a number of victims or their relatives read out victim impact statements.
The report added that Leat had a “determination to change his life and to find suitable employment or other activities to stay busy”.
But the mother of one victim said: “Leat will be banned from going in certain areas but sadly that doesn’t include the end of our road or local hospital for example.
“My daughter is terrified of bumping into him – and reliving it all over again. I don’t believe eight and half years is anywhere near long enough to rehabilitate him.
“He will have done everything in his power to manipulate the system in prison and I am convinced he’s done the same when it comes to the Parole Board.”
The Parole Board said Leat’s release is subject to licence conditions which involve “strict limitations” on his contacts, movements and activities, including:
- To have a curfew and an electronic tag as well as submit to a polygraph test.
- To live at a designated address, to be on good behaviour and report for supervisions.
- To disclose “developing relationships”.
- To “respect other identified limitations concerning named individuals”, including contacting former pupils and adhere to exclusion zones to avoid meeting his victims.
- His use of computers and other technology is also subject to restrictions.
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A Parole Board spokesman said the panel “carefully examined a whole range of evidence” and reviews were “undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care”, adding: “The Parole Board would like to express its immense sympathy for the victims and their families in this case.”
Leat’s actions and the response of the school will be examined by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in hearings from November 16-27 as part of its investigation into residential schools.