Private school housemaster cleared of abusing boys after victim's father writes to court to defend him

Rozina Sabur
 Sedbergh School in Cumbria  - PA

A private school housemaster has been cleared of abusing boys after one of the alleged victim's fathers wrote to the court to defend him.

Christopher Griffin, a housemaster at the prestigious £10,000-a-term boarding school, was accused of "sexually touching" pupils' feet in their bedrooms late at night.

Two teenage complainants said they were pretending to be asleep when they claimed the married teacher came in and placed his hand under their bed covers.

An investigation was launched in March 2016 after a pupil told authorities that Griffin would regularly place his hand under his duvet after midnight and stroke his feet and massage his lower legs for up five minutes.

A second boy then alleged that the year before he had both his feet stroked and "lightly squeezed" one night by the defendant with his door closed. He also described how he could feel the defendant's breath on his feet as he lay in his cabin bed.

Christopher Griffin who has been cleared of sexually touching the feet of two pupils in their bedrooms late at night Credit: Scott Heppell/PA

Carlisle Crown Court heard the second complainant had texted a friend over his concerns about Griffin shortly after the housemaster left his room.

Griffin, 58, denied he had a foot fetish and said the contact had been innocent as he checked on students during nightly rounds at Sedbergh School in Cumbria - founded in 1525, with term fees of £10,590.

The father of the second boy even provided a statement of support for Griffin to the court in which he said he had "nothing but praise for Chris Griffin's pastoral care of my son".

Stephen Mooney, defending Griffin - a religious studies teacher and housemaster at Sedbergh for 17 years - told the jury the boy was "confused" after suffering an illness earlier in the day.

The barrister suggested the first boy may have learned of the text and went on to use it to his advantage to invent a pack of lies about Griffin.

Mr Mooney said the first complainant - described widely as "a difficult pupil" - seized on the moment to get himself out of his own problems at the school by fabricating the allegations against Griffin.

"What he has done is an evil thing. He may not appreciate how evil it was," he said.

A jury took less than a hour to find the "highly regarded" housemaster not guilty of five counts of sexual assault.

Griffin, of New Road, Ingleton, North Yorkshire, had earlier been cleared of a sixth count of attempted sexual assault on the directions of Judge Tony Lancaster because of "insufficient evidence".

Speaking later alongside Sally, his wife of 35 years, Mr Griffin said: "It has been a harrowing 13 months. I am delighted it is over."

Andrew Fleck, headmaster of Sedbergh School, said the school was "pleased" with the outcome and "committed to the highest standards of safeguarding for pupils".

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