Dame Anne Rafferty to lead Highgate School 'rape culture' review

Dame Rafferty was the first female chair of the Criminal Bar Association

Dame Rafferty was the first female chair of the Criminal Bar Association - Credit: Highgate School

A former appeal court judge will lead Highgate School’s independent review into pupils’ allegations of sexual abuse.  

Dame Anne Rafferty has been appointed by governors to investigate more than 230 testimonies of pupils past and present which include reports of sexual assault and rape by Highgate pupils.  

Police have encouraged victims of sexual offences to contact Scotland Yard, as students staged a walkout on Thursday (March 25) in solidarity with the “survivors”. 

Accused of covering up a “rape culture”, and facing questions over the safeguarding of its students, Highgate headteacher Adam Pettitt said there was an “urgent need for systemic change”.  

The school is working on an anti-sexism plan, and governors say the review will “transparently scrutinise exactly what took place".

The review's figurehead, Dame Anne, was Lady Justice of Appeal of England and Wales from 2011 to 2020. 

The chancellor of University of Sheffield became the first female chair of the Criminal Bar Association in 1995.  

The 70-year-old has three daughters and is married to former Old Bailey judge, Brian John Barker CBE.  

Dame Anne said: “These accounts grieve the reader. That is as nothing compared to their effect upon those involved, directly or indirectly.

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"This inquiry, which I am privileged to chair, will ask tough questions wherever it thinks an answer might be revealing.

"Highgate School asks for candour, and so will the panel.”  

The appointment came as Highgate Testimonies, the group of students which published the allegations against the school, released a statement.  

It said: "We have been encouraged by the Head’s public apology to victims of sexual assault for the school’s failure to support them, and the resulting commitment to an external investigation with regard to the endemic rape culture at Highgate School.   

“There is still much more to do to make Highgate students feel safe and supported at school, and we stand in solidarity with the many pupils who staged yesterday’s walkout in protest against Highgate School’s rape culture.   

“We look forward to hearing how the school further intends to address the issues raised in our letter in the plan to be published next week, and hope that this is the first of many steps taken by Highgate to ensure that the distressing experiences related in the Highgate Testimonies are never repeated again." 

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “We are aware of allegations as reported in the media and would encourage anyone who has been the victim of any offence to contact police.” 

If you have been affected by sexual abuse at Highgate School and wish to speak to the Ham&High about this and how it may have been handled, contact us in confidence at editorial@hamhigh.co.uk.

The gates of Highgate School, in North Road

The gates of Highgate School, in North Road - Credit: Polly Hancock