Teacher accused of historic sex assault received pay-out worth £58k today
- Credit: Archant/ Submitted
A Catholic boarding school housemaster accused of sexually assaulting a child was given a pay-out worth £58,000 today, we can reveal.
Brother Solomon, also known by his lay name Mike Mercado, taught at St Joseph’s College on Belstead Road in Ipswich for the first time in the 1950s, and left in 1961.
It was formerly run by the De La Salle order of monks and has been hit with allegations of historic sex abuse in recent years. It has been under independent ownership since 1996.
Brother Solomon, after leaving the school, taught at De La Salle-run schools in Crystal Palace and Jersey in the early 1960s.
He left the order entirely in 1966, and returned to Ipswich in 1982 as a housemaster under the name Mike Mercado.
It is believed he died in the late 1990s.
A letter he sent to his boarders in 1985, that came to light last year, revealed he was sacked and “given a glowing reference” by the headmaster following an allegation he “touched a boy indecently on his bottom” six months earlier.
In the letter, Mr Mercado denies the accusation, claiming he was instead removed for “being drunk while looking after his boarders”, which he also denied, and that he received a pay-out after suing for unfair dismissal.
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The De La Salle order of today has spent the last three months digging through archives finding answers to questions put to it by this newspaper on behalf of former students and victims.
Barry Hudd, safeguarding officer for the order, confirmed Mr Mercado left the order in 1966 after being repeatedly challenged about his heavy drinking.
This contradicts the assertion by Mr Mercado in his letter that he left to "pursue a career in music and showbusiness".
Despite concerns about his drinking, he was allowed to return to St Joseph’s in Ipswich almost 20 years later.
The order confirmed the allegation of indecent assault in 1985 at the school was not referred to the police because the pupil "withdrew the allegation in writing”.
Mr Hudd said: “The reference Mr Mercado was given was to enable him to obtain employment but specifically stated he should not be employed in a teaching post.
“He was given an out-of-court settlement of £18,000 following a claim for unfair dismissal.
“We have no record of any compensation to the pupil, or the pupil making a claim.
“We also have no record of any other allegations.”
Adjusted for inflation, £18,000 in 1985 equates to £58,032 today.
In Mr Mercado’s letter of 1985, he claims the school’s “big guns” wanted rid of him. Mr Hudd said he believed this was because the housemaster had begun drinking again.
Ex pupils who spoke to this newspaper said they remembered Brother Solomon getting "blind drunk" while on duty in the early 80s, and others claim he caned them "on the bare backside".
Mr Hudd speculated that a possible reason for the out of court settlement could have been a failure to follow due process by the school at the time, but that “patchy” documentation in the archives had prevented the order putting together a full picture.
He said he did not want to comment further, and stressed that the order had already apologised for the abuse victims faced at the hands of De La Salle monks and staff.
Pat Mills, the writer who developed comic book legend Judge Dredd, was a pupil at the Ipswich school in the 1960s and was sexually abused by another member of the order, Brother James.
He said the revelation about Mike Mercado's pay-off was "absolutely extraordinary".
"To explain all of Solomon's abuse and dismissal away with the excuse of "heavy drinking" is not satisfactory", he said. "But heavy drinking while a teacher at a children's school is a serious offence alone, so I'm gobsmacked he still received £18k in compensation for 'unfair dismissal'.
"Shame on the current De La Salles that they feel no need to apologise for this man's dreadful crimes as they have apologised previously.
"Given the way Mike Mercado, aka Brother Solomon, probably ruined so many children's lives, a hundred apologies would not be excessive."
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