Headteacher Neil Foden found guilty of sexually abusing girls

  • ITV Wales' Joanne Gallacher and Ian Lang report.

A former headteacher has been found guilty of sexually abusing four girls over a four-year period.

Neil Foden, 66, of Old Colwyn was found guilty of 19 charges, including 12 of sexual activity with a child.

In addition, he was found guilty of two counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust, one count of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, attempting to arrange the commission of a child sex offence, sexual communication with a child, possessing indecent photographs of a child for show, and the sexual assault of a child under 13.

He was found not guilty of one charge of sexual activity with a child. After just over a day of deliberation, the jury returned their verdict on Wednesday, 15 May, after an almost four-week trial.

Foden, who had denied all the charges, stared ahead as the verdicts were read out and showed no emotion.

He is due to be sentenced at Mold Crown Court on Monday, 1 July.

Judge Rhys Rowlands warned he would go to jail and would receive a lengthy sentence.

The judge told Foden “some of the explanations for your behaviour towards the victims proffered by you beggared belief at times”.

He said he had shown himself to be “arrogant” with a “controlling personality” and an “individual used to getting his own way”.

He added: “This defendant was arrogant and couldn’t care less. He was Neil Foden, a man in his view who could do no wrong."

Judge Rowlands criticised Cyngor Gwynedd (Gwynedd Council) for not investigating concerns about Foden meeting girls alone as far back as 2019.

He said: “It does appear to me that when real concerns were raised with the council in 2019 they were dismissed.

“No note was even taken of anything that was said. We now know he continued to offend. That’s very concerning indeed”.

Neil Foden entering Mold Crown Court Credit: PA Images

Ceri Ellis-Jones, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “These crimes were shocking as Foden was a trusted and well-respected individual.

“The victims are to be commended for their bravery in coming forward and giving evidence. Their support for this prosecution has been key to Foden being brought to justice.

“I would also like to thank the specialist team at North Wales Police with whom we closely collaborated from the outset. We were able to present a compelling case to the jury, resulting in these convictions".

North Wales Police's assistant chief constable Gareth Evans said: "We welcome the jury’s verdict following a difficult case and thank them for their diligent work.

"My thoughts remain with the victims and their families today, who have shown dignity and bravery throughout the trial and we will continue to support in moving forward.

"I will make further comment after the sentencing hearing."

A spokesperson for Gwynedd Council said: “As a council, we welcome the court's decision.

"We are appalled by the nature of the crimes committed and commend and admire the remarkable courage and resilience the victims and their families have displayed throughout the process.

"We are grateful to them and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.“From the beginning of this case, Cyngor Gwynedd has worked closely with North Wales Police to ensure that the Wales Safeguarding Procedures have been followed in full.

“Now that the criminal process has concluded, the task of reviewing work practices and establishing what lessons can be learnt will begin. Due to the serious nature of the case, arrangements are being made to carry out an independent review in accordance with national Child Practice Review guidelines. The exact form of the review is currently being determined.

“Until all relevant investigations and reviews have been completed, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Children's Commissioner for Wales Rocio Cifuentes said: "The actions surrounding these offences and how concerns were dealt with must now be fully investigated.

"I contacted the local authority for assurances as soon as I was made aware of Mr Foden’s arrest in connection with these offences. I’ll be meeting with senior officials from the authority in the next few weeks to establish what steps they’ll be taking to learn from this.

"Professionals working with children have a duty to report any concerns about suspected risk of abuse, and children who come forward must be listened to and taken seriously. If anyone is unsure about whether or where to take any concerns forward they can contact my office or the NSPCC."

Foden had also been a teaching union leader and a local spokesman on educational issues.

In a statement, a National Education Union spokesperson said: "The offences committed by this individual are abhorrent and the NEU is appalled by them. These were despicable and vile acts, with lasting effects on his victims.

"No one should be above suspicion and when accusations or concerns are raised about an individual, from whatever quarter or position of power, they need to be fully investigated.

"Children and young people need to be confident that they can speak out about abuse, and school staff also need to be confident that they will be given a serious hearing if they have concerns.

"The priority must always be the safety of children and young people. This man’s offences against children have sickened and shocked the pupils, school staff and the community in which he worked. Stringent and strictly adhered to safeguarding measures in schools and colleges and by school governors and local authorities must always be observed."