Head teacher guilty of sexually abusing four girls

A head teacher has been found guilty of sexual abuse involving four girls over a four-year period.

Neil Foden, 66, from Old Colwyn in Conwy county, was convicted of 19 charges in total.

Foden, who was head of one Gwynedd school and strategic head of another, was found not guilty of sexual activity with a fifth girl.

He had denied all the charges at Mold Crown Court and claimed he had not had physical contact with the girls.

Judge Rhys Rowlands said there was "quite compelling evidence of serious sexual offending" and Foden had committed a "grave breach of trust".

He described him as an "arrogant, controlling individual, used to getting his own way" and said some of the explanations offered by Foden for his behaviour "beggared belief".

"You were a powerful figure, you thought you could just do as you liked," Judge Rowlands added.

He said it was worrying that when concerns were first raised to Gwynedd county council about Foden in 2019 by a senior member of staff, "they were dismissed out of hand, no investigation took place, no note was taken of what was said or done, and now we know you continued to offend".

The judge called it "very concerning".

Foden was convicted of 12 counts of sexual activity with a child and two counts of sexual activity with a child in a position of trust

He was also convicted of one count each of causing or inciting child sexual activity, attempting to arrange the commission of a child sex offence, sexual communication with a child, possession of indecent photographs of a child and sexual assault of a child.

Foden was cleared of one count of sexual activity with a child, where he was alleged to have touched the bottom of child D.

He stared straight ahead and gave no reaction while the verdicts and judges remarks were delivered.

He will be sentenced at the court on 1 July.

Foden joined Ysgol Friars in Bangor, Gwynedd, as a deputy head in 1989, becoming headteacher in 1997.

He was also strategic head of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle secondary school in Penygroes.

Five girls, who cannot be identified, accused him of abuse between January 2019 and September 2023.

Across the three and a half week trial, the court heard how the head teacher groomed and abused the youngsters over a four year period, in locations including his car and hotel rooms.

Neil Foden leaving Mold Crown Court
Mold Crown Court heard how the headteacher groomed and abused the youngsters over a four year period [BBC]

The court was shown a video of Foden holding the hand of one of the girls, child A, as she sat in the back of his car, while he was in the driver's seat.

He was arrested after child A showed an adult a photo of them together and screenshots of messages about oral sex.

She also described how Foden would search for locations on google maps, where he would take her in his car and sexually abuse her.

He would make arrangements with her by text, sending hundreds of messages a day, and would tell her he loved her.

She told police: "He would say he loved me. After a while it got a bit more sexual.

"After we kissed a few days later he put his hands down my pants, so the text messages would be like, what he wanted to do to me."

The court heard he would pick her up in his car and drive them to secluded areas.

Another complainant, child E, told police she referred to Foden as Mr P, for perfect, while he called her "his little sex toy".

She also described meeting the defendant in his BMW car, which had personalised number plates, and driving to remote lay-bys and country lanes "for him to have a play with me".

After Foden was arrested, police found a pair of purple and black lace handcuffs in the boot of his car which had DNA present matching Foden and the youngster.

Foden was accused of pinching the thigh of child B and putting his hand under her clothing.

Child C alleged he had placed his hand at the top of her inner thighs.

Foden denied all of the offences and said he was not an "abusive adult".

He told the jury he was not able to have sex because of erectile dysfunction caused by a medical condition.

Asked about a message he sent to child A in which he said he felt "slightly horny", he said "the sad reality" was he "couldn't feel slightly horny" if he wanted to.

He said the message was meant to be "complimentary" and make the girl "feel attractive".

Neil Foden arriving at Mold Crown Court
Judge Rhys Rowlands described Foden as an "arrogant, controlling individual" [PA Media]

A spokesperson for Cyngor Gwynedd said it was "appalled by the nature of the crimes committed".

"Now that the criminal process has concluded, the task of reviewing work practices and establishing what lessons can be learnt will begin," the council spokesperson added.

"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."

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the crimes were "shocking as Foden was a trusted and well-respected individual, who used that to his advantage".

Ceri Ellis-Jones of the CPS said: " He abused his position of trust and targeted the most vulnerable females he was entrusted to safeguard.

"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."

North Wales Police said it welcomed the jury's verdict following a difficult case, and said Foden was convicted of charges including sexual offences against children who he should have protected.

Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Evans said: "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."

Neil Foden
Foden denied all the charges against him [BBC]

Children's Commissioner Rocio Cifuentes said the actions surrounding the 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 and 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," she added.