Women considering legal action against college over sex assault claims

Two young women are considering legal action against one of Wales’ most prestigious colleges for allegedly failing to protect them from an alleged “sexual predator”.

The two women claim The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama “systematically” failed to protect them throughout their degree.

An internal investigation found that a total of 16 young women made allegations against the accused.

Legal proceedings against the college are now at a “pre-action stage”. The cause of action against the college is negligence.

The alleged perpetrator was never charged, and South Wales Police confirmed there is no current active investigation.

The allegations relate to a number of incidents starting from 2016.

One student, ‘A’ , alleges in that in her first term she was seriously sexually assaulted numerous times by a fellow student.

The alleged sexual assaults are said to have taken place in the college halls of residence and allegedly included an occasion where A believes she was drugged by the accused during a night out within 24 hours of being introduced to him.

She said her experience left her so traumatised that she was unable to talk to anyone for several months about the incident. However, in 2017, ‘A’ informed the college of the alleged sexual assaults.

The college’s designated person responsible for safeguarding met with ‘A’ but they say they did not alert the police.

The allegations resulted in the accused being separated from ‘A’ in lectures for the following term – but the alleged victims say this policy was breached on two occasions.

During this term, the accused allegedly assaulted a second victim, ‘B’.

She claimed the accused entered the women’s dressing room in the college and made the assault while ‘B’ was working alone at her laptop.

‘B’ is also now taking action against the college for not dealing with the accused following the incident.

Seven months after her initial approach to the college, ‘A’ was told by the college that her initial complaint was not recognised as ‘formal’ and for them to alert the police she would need to make it so.

At their request, ‘A’ formalised the complaint to allow the police to be informed.

The college then proceeded with their own investigation which resulted in 14 more female students, in addition to ‘A’ and ‘B’, making allegations against the accused.

The accusations made by ‘B’ and the other 14 students were upheld.

As a result, the accused was suspended from RWCMD for two weeks.

A representative for the alleged victims said the suspension was never enforced though and while he did not attend lectures he was still seen around campus.

The accusations made by ‘A’ however were not upheld.

She was described as ‘a troublemaker’ by the teaching staff and the accused alleged to have been actively supported.

‘A’ said her mental health declined during the investigation which she now believes was a symptom of not being believed, respected or taken seriously.

In 2018, ‘A’ asked to leave the college due to her declining relationship with the institution.

The accused completed his studying and graduated with full honours.

South Wales law firm, Bater Law, is representing both ‘A’ and ‘B’ in their case against the college.

Solicitor, John Watkins, said: “The college failed in its duty of care to these women and to the 14 others who were assaulted by the accused. Time after time the college fell short of their own safeguarding policy.

“Their actions not only protected, but enabled, the accused. The college should of course be a safe place for students.

“The fact that both ‘A’ and ‘S’ were living in a different country, far away from friends and relatives who could support them makes the college’s response even harder to fathom.

“What’s more, in 2018 the college signed a national charter along with other key UK drama colleges to safeguard their students against sexual misconduct.

“The irony of their mishandling of ‘A’ and ‘B’s case at this time cannot be underplayed.”

A college spokeswoman said: “The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is of the highest importance and we have formal mechanisms in place to both safeguard and support members of the college community who wish to report incidents.

“The college treats every report of inappropriate behaviour with the upmost seriousness; our policies and procedures are kept under constant review in order to remain aligned with best practice and our most recent review (2020) included expert externality.

“We remain committed to listening openly to any member of our community, current or previous, who wish to report an incident through our formal processes – whether recent or historic.

“We would encourage any complainants who have not reported their concerns to us, to do so.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on the specific allegations which are the subject of an ongoing legal process.”

A spokesman for South Wales Police said: “This is a civil matter. I can confirm there are no current active investigations in relation to this incident.

WalesOnline – Cardiff