Russell Tillson, convicted for abusing pupils as a teacher at Tonbridge School, Kent | Bolt Burdon Kemp Russell Tillson, convicted for abusing pupils as a teacher at Tonbridge School, Kent | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Russell Tillson, convicted for abusing pupils as a teacher at Tonbridge School, Kent

Russell Tillson has been convicted of sexually abusing two pupils at a prestigious Kent boarding school by grabbing their genitalia when he was working as a teacher.

Tillson, now 72 years old, was Head of Sixth Form and taught Economics at Tonbridge School at the time of the offences. He now faces the prospect of jail after being convicted of four sexual offences at Maidstone Crown Court.

It is expected Tillson will be sentenced to jail at a hearing on 1 September 2023, although in my experience, the criminal courts are often so overwhelmed that I would not be surprised if this date ends up slipping.

Shockingly, it was alleged that abuse had been reported to Tonbridge School in 1984 but that the school had taken no action as Tillson was considered “too valuable” a member of staff. Further allegations were again made in 2001 but police were not involved until 2019.

Readers of this will be rightly disgusted by the lack of action by the school when being informed of allegations of abuse by a teacher. This suggests there was a massive failing by a school that was more determined to protect its own reputation than the wellbeing of its students and which resulted in an abuser being allowed to commit further crimes under their employment.

Survivors of abuse will rightly feel that whilst Tillson obviously deserves a prison sentence, the school must also be made responsible for its failings. Unfortunately, there is not currently a criminal offence for failing to report child abuse to the police. In fact, despite the recommendation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that this be criminalised, the current government has seemingly kicked this into the long grass by calling for further consultation on this issue.

In situations like this, the survivors of the abuse may consider bringing a civil claim against the school directly, in order to ensure that their voices are finally recognised by the school in a meaningful way. It is vital that not only can individual teachers be trusted to have the best interests of their students at heart but that this principle is embedded at the very core of the school management too.

I have extensive experience in representing survivors who experienced abuse in schools and I am happy to speak to anyone who wants advice in this regard.

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