Highgate School ‘predatory paedophile’ brought to justice after 40 years

A “predatory paedophile” teacher who stalked boys dormitories at prestigious Highgate School has finally been brought to justice after more than 40 years.

Roger Bliss, a science teacher and house master at the independent junior school, used his “charismatic” personality to prey on vulnerable prepubescent pupils in the 1970s, Wood Green Crown Court heard yesterday (Wednesday, January 25).

Bliss, who patrolled the corridors of the boarding house at night, would sit beside pupils in their beds and slide his hands under the covers to fondle the boys.

The court heard how Bliss’ victims felt “terrified and frozen with fear” when they were abused.

The abuse only stopped after an investigation into his conduct following a complaint by a parent in 1974.

Prosecutor Sandy Canavan said Highgate School denied any sexual assault took place when allegations first came to light in the 1970s.

The school said Bliss had been conducting research into a sexual education programme “but very much wanted to sweep the matter below the carpet,” the prosecutor said.

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She said: “Mr Bliss was a predatory paedophile who took advantage of the trust placed in him by parents by giving their children into his care.”

Father-of-three Bliss, 64, went on to become headmaster at Boundary Oak School, a preparatory boarding school in Hampshire, for 18 years.

The current leadership at Highgate School, in North Road, Highgate, said the abuse was “abhorrent” speaking after the court case.

Highgate School headmaster Adam Pettitt said: “These offences were committed some 40 years ago.

“The offences are abhorrent and represent a serious breach of trust between teacher and pupil. The school’s thoughts are with the former pupils affected.”

He added: “I wish to reassure everybody that since the 1970s, at a national level, child protection policies and procedures have developed considerably.

“Robust and up-to-date child protection procedures and safer recruitment policies are firmly embedded within Highgate School’s ethos, culture and governance.

“The effectiveness of the school’s child protection procedures and policies was confirmed very recently by the Independent Schools Inspectorate during a periodic inspection.”

Former teacher Bliss was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison yesterday (January 25) after pleading guilty to 19 counts of indecent assault against seven different boys, but he could be released on licence within 15 months.

Defence counsel Sarah Read said Bliss had suffered sexual abuse as a 14-year-old choir boy at hands of a man 20 years his senior.

She said: “He hopes that the guilty pleas will amount to a public apology to the complainants involved in this case.”

The prosecution said the incidents happened between 1970 and 1974, but the defence argued they were isolated to one year.

Sentencing Bliss, QC Judge Nicholas Browne QC, said: “Most were very young boys, prepubescent and impressionable, at least some of them were shy, hesitant, perhaps fearful. As a result of the combination of all these factors, they were reluctant or unable to make a complaint at the time.”

The prosecution said allegations of indecent assault had also been made against Highgate School senior house master Peter Kelland, Bliss’ superior, who has since died.

The defence said Bliss was not aware of Mr Kelland’s alleged behaviour.