Roger Dodds sex abuse victim wins £91,000 from Sheffield Council

Roger Dodds
Roger Dodds
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Sheffield Council has been ordered to pay more than £90,000 in compensation to a former employee who was sexually abused by a colleague.

Richard Rowe was one of the victims of Roger Dodds, who in February was jailed for 16 years for abusing teenagers and young men while he worked at the authority in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 84-page judgement.

The 84-page judgement.

Mr Rowe, now 57, was aged just 16 when the abuse began, shortly after he joined the authority's education department where Dodds was in charge.

On 10 occasions over the course of 18 months, Dodds sexually abused the teenager in the toilets of the council building.

Despite an internal investigation in 1983, Dodds kept his job and carried on working for the council until he was granted early retirement in 1993. He was only caught after a police investigation in 2008.

Mr Rowe, who has waived his right to anonymity, launched a civil case against the council in 2010.

Sheffield Crown Court

Sheffield Crown Court

He argued that his abuse at the hands of Dodds limited his career progression. He also blamed several periods of ill health, including a six month period where he could not work in 2003, on the attacks.

And Mr Rowe claimed for loss of earnings and pension after he lost his job at the council in 2011, following time off work due to illness.

Yesterday Judge Graham Robinson awarded Mr Rowe a total of £91,186.68, covering damages for pain and suffering, loss of congenial employment, disappointment and distress relating to lack of promotion at work, loss of pension and the cost of cognitive behavioural therapy sessions.

After the hearing Mr Rowe said: “We are pleased it’s come to an end.

“It’s been a really tough battle getting to where we are, and I hope that it’s going to give other victims the courage to battle their own demons and come forward.”

A sum for loss of earnings will be finalised at a later hearing, but could run into the tens of thousands.

The council said it 'wholly accepted' Judge Robinson's findings.

In an 84-page judgement, Mr Rowe's claim that the police investigation into Dodds in 2008 caused anxiety and depression was upheld.

But Judge Robinson found Mr Rowe did not suffer 'any psychiatric illness relatable to the assaults before 2008'.

This included the six months he took off work due to stress in 2003.

Mr Rowe claimed concern about what might be recorded in his personnel file around the time of the abuse meant he did not apply for promotion within the council - therefore depriving him of a higher salary.

Judge Robinson rejected Mr Rowe's claim that the assaults affected his performance at work, but said he couldn't find out how far he might have gone at the council because of his fear of applying for new jobs.

He added: "The evidence as presented to me does not enable me to conclude that, on the balance of probabilities, the claimant would have progressed any further than he did.

"However, I do accept that the claimant never really had the chance to find this out for himself.

"From the time of the 1983 investigation he genuinely and reasonably believed that there was information recorded on his personnel file which he reasonably did not want to be seen by others.

"This acted as a powerful disincentive to apply for more jobs than he did."

Judge Robinson said Mr Rowe was left with a 'lasting sense of grievance' which could be considered a 'form of mental distress manifesting itself in a real sense of disappointment'.

Mr Rowe also alleged that the council tried to silence him after he reported Dodds' abuse, asking for damages as a result.

Judge Robinson rejected this claim, but agreed that Mr Rowe was entitled to loss of past earnings between April 1, 2012, until now, and future earnings until November 30 of this year, during which time he will undergo treatment for his anxiety and depression.

The bulk of that sum will be set at a later hearing.

'No cover up' at council

The civil case against Sheffield Council was not a public inquiry into Roger Dodds' abuse.

But Judge Graham Robinson did address several questions about the authority's conduct both at the time of the assaults and subsequently.

He dismissed Mr Rowe's claim the council tried to cover up the abuse, pointing out that disciplinary action was taken against Dodds in the early 1980s and he was initially sacked - although he won his job back on appeal.

Judge Robinson accepted that those investigating Dodds at the time would have been within their rights to ask people they interviewed not to discuss the matter or mention the names of his victims.

He said: "That the claimant is aggrieved that the original decision to dismiss Roger Dodds was overturned on appeal is understandable.

"However, I do not find that there was any deliberate conspiracy to protect Roger Dodds, nor do I find any deliberate attempt to conceal any relevant documents."

Judge Robinson notes the conclusions of the investigation into Dodds, 'Operation Klosters', published in 2009, which said the decision to offer him early retirement in 1993, aged 58, was 'clearly unacceptable by present day standards and the standards and policy and legislation in place at the time'.

He said: "He ought to have been made to wait and to have undergone proper disciplinary process. But I reject any suggestion of deliberate cover up."

Judge Robinson said the council could not have anticipated or prevented the abuse on Mr Rowe based on what it knew at the time.

But he added: "Whether the same is true in respect of other later assaults on others is outside the scope of this litigation."

After yesterday's judgement, the council's director of children and families Carly Speechley again apologised for Dodds' actions.

"We would never defend the indefensible and have never failed to accept responsibility, despite the fact that this happened several decades ago," she said.

“We wholly accept the settlement handed down by Judge Robinson today."

Mrs Speechley said a 'raft' of changes had been made since Dodds left the council including the Klosters report, which 'left no stone unturned in attempting to uncover the reality of the circumstances at the time'.

She added: “The report recognised that things had already changed significantly, and also made seven recommendations, every one of which has since been implemented fully.

"Things had already changed at the council by the time the Klosters report was published almost a decade ago, and have changed further since then.

“We tackle abuse head-on, provide care and support to victims, and do everything we can to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

“We always urge all victims of sexual abuse to come forward as soon as possible, so they can get the support they need and offenders can be brought to justice.”

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