Child Abuse in Schools

School should be a place where children are safe from harm and abuse, a place for them to learn and develop in a safe environment.

Sometimes, however, those in a position of trust abuse this position and take advantage of a child. Whether the abuse is sexual, physical or emotional this can be extremely traumatising for a child and have life-long consequences.

Our specialist solicitors at Bolt Burdon Kemp can help you make a claim if you were abused. Get in touch with our caring team and we will guide you through this difficult process. We act for most clients on a no-win, no fee basis, and can also advise you about making a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

Reporting child abuse

If you or your child has been abused, or you suspect a teacher or someone else working at a school is abusing children, you should report it to the police immediately. Trained child protection police officers can visit you at home or in an alternative safe place. Victim support services are also available.

To find out more about reporting or disclosing child abuse, and the information police will want to know, please read our guide.

Child abuse in schools can take a number of different forms and be sexual, physical and/or emotional. Abusers can be:

  • A person in a position of trust, such as a teacher
  • Other staff members
  • Pupils at the school

Making a claim against a school

If a school employee committed the abuse it is possible to make a claim against the individual involved. However, you can also sue their employer. This can often be the better course of action as organisations such as schools and local authorities are insured against claims for childhood sexual abuse.

Identifying the employer will depend on whether the school is a private or a state school. If it is a state school, the local authority is responsible. In a private school, responsibility lies with the owner or the governors of the school. Our specialist team is highly experienced at identifying the best course of action to take.

What is vicarious liability?

If you make a claim against the organisation responsible for the school, it is on the basis that the organisation is responsible for the actions of that staff member.

It is therefore necessary to prove vicarious liability, which is the principle that the person, whether a teacher or other member of staff, was abusing the child in the course of their employment.

We are experienced in proving vicarious liability by obtaining evidence to show how the teacher or staff member used their position to commit the abuse.

What if the school knew?

We can also hold the organisation responsible by proving that they were negligent in allowing the abuse to take place.

By demonstrating that the school knew about the abuse, or should have known about the abuse and failed to act, we can hold the school liable for its negligence: for example, if a child told a teacher about the abuse and the teacher did nothing, or if the abuser had a criminal record for similar offences before being employed by the school.

Are there any time limitations?

Strictly speaking, you have until the age of 21 to bring a claim to court. But if you are older than 21 and you have suffered abuse, it isn’t the end of the road. The courts appreciate that there are a number of reasons why victims of abuse may not be able to come forward before this age and can therefore extend the time limit for bringing a claim under particular circumstances.

Bolt Burdon Kemp can help support you in this type of case and gather the right information for the courts.

How Bolt Burdon Kemp can help

Our experienced and sympathetic solicitors have helped many child abuse victims win their cases. We understand how hard it can be to talk openly about these subjects, but you can trust in our specialist solicitors to handle your case sensitively.

We are quality approved to undertake legal aid work for child abuse compensation claims by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). Our expert solicitors also hold memberships with the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL), the Law Society’s specialist Personal Injury Panel and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

We know that money can never truly compensate for abuse at school. However, it can help to rebuild survivor’s lives, as a claim can be made for the cost of private counselling or loss of earnings if the incident has impacted a career.

Success stories

  • We represented N who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her music teacher at Sir Harry Smith Community College in Cambridgeshire. N was abused between the ages of 15 and 19 between 1991 and 1995. As a result of the abuse, N developed severe mental health problems and was unable to complete her university degree. In 1997 she reported the abuse to the police but the teacher was released without charge. We secured £550,000 compensation for N, which included compensation for the effect that the abuse had on her education and career
  • We acted for J in relation to sexual abuse he suffered for four years in the late 1980s as a pupil at Clifton College Preparatory School and Clifton College Upper School. It was not until 2007 that J felt able to disclose the abuse and report it to the police and the abuser was successfully convicted of numerous offences in relation to J. We secured £200,000 compensation for J which included compensation to help him get the treatment he needed
  • ABC suffered sexual abuse at the hands of William Whillock, a teacher at The New School, Kent, which ABC attended between 2006 and 2011. Whillock also pressured ABC into sending him sexually explicit messages or images: “sexting”. ABC instructed us to act for her and we recovered £25,000 including the first ever sum of compensation to be awarded for “sexting”. You can read more about ABC’s case here.

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