Landmark Judgment 13th December 2007

December 13, 2007
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MAN ABUSED BY PARENTS WINS DAMAGES FOR SOCIAL SERVICES’ FAILINGS

Jake Pierce aged 31, won damages of £25,000 from Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council in a landmark judgment in the High Court today.

Mr Pierce (then known as Lee Wilson) was born in Doncaster on the 1 st March 1976. Social services had been concerned that he was being neglected and abused as a baby and he was removed from the family home into foster care for 15 months. However Social Services then returned him to his parents’ care where he suffered 12 years of further abuse. Mr Pierce alleged that Social Services failed to assess the risk to him as a baby on being returned to his parents’ care, and failed to monitor and supervise him at home. At the age of 14, to escape the abuse from his parents, Mr Pierce left home to live on the streets, eventually being picked up by the police in 1991 and placed with foster carers.

During his time with his family, Mr Pierce alleged that he was regularly hit with a poker, a stiletto shoe and a belt. He was thrown downstairs and had knives held to his face and was threatened with death. On one occasion his alcoholic father doused the house in petrol and threatened to set light to it and on other occasions Mr Pierce was tied and locked in a freezer. He was left outside in the garden naked during cold weather, was never allowed to play with other children, and never received Christmas presents, even though his other brothers and sisters did. At the age of 3, an Aunt took him to hospital with extensive burns to his buttocks and feet, and she expressed concern at how her nephew was being treated at home. Despite this, he was returned to his parents’ care where further abuse took place.

The Judge, Mr Justice Eady, accepted that Mr Pierce suffered “indifference, neglect and periodic violence in the home environment at the hands of his parents” amounting to “physical cruelty and emotional deprivation” which played a part in his development of an emotionally unstable personality disorder. The Judge accepted that Doncaster Social Services had owed Mr Pierce a duty of care and had breached that duty, their standard of care falling below that of a reasonable local authority at that time. In particular, the Judge held that they should not have placed Mr Pierce back into the abusive home environment in 1977.

This is the first case of its kind to reach trial where a Claimant has been awarded damages. Jonathan Wheeler, Head of Personal Injury at Bolt Burdon Kemp Solicitors acted for Mr Pierce. He said “My client has understandably found the court case very difficult to deal with but both he and I were committed to getting justice for what he suffered. The court has now publicly recognised that Doncaster failed him absolutely and his action in taking this case has been vindicated by this verdict. Other victims in similar circumstances now have the green light to pursue their claims”.

At the hearing today, Doncaster’s application to appeal was refused.

Click here to see the TimesOnline coverage

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