Victory against council that failed to supervise suspected paedophile
I am delighted to report that last week my client was successful in her claim against Cambridgeshire County Council for damages.
I shall call my client Naomi for the purposes of this blog. Naomi was seriously sexually abused by her music teacher at a school in Cambridgeshire. When Naomi was 15 years old the teacher began to abuse her in her music lessons after school. This was to continue until my client was 19 years old because he had groomed her into believing that they were in a relationship based upon love. Instead he used his position of authority to take advantage of her and force her to carry out degrading sexual acts upon him under the threat that he would go to prison if she were to tell anyone and if that were to happen, that he would kill himself.
The ‘relationship’ ended in 1995 when the teacher admitted that he was in love with another pupil of his who was 15 years old. When Naomi met her husband a number of years later he helped her to see that what the teacher had done to her was in fact abuse and not a loving relationship as he had convinced her for so many years that it was. She then bravely made the decision to report him to the police having discovered that he had moved onto another school where other children may have been at risk from him.
For reasons that I do still not understand myself, having read the police file, the teacher was released without charge. Understandably, having finally come to realise what he had done to her over such a long period of time, Naomi was devastated to learn that he was to go unpunished and is now believed to be living abroad.
BBK instructed to investigate abuse claim
As part of the police investigation into the teacher my client was informed that he had previously been charged with serious sexual offences against two other young girls at another school in Cambridge where he was a teacher before moving onto her school. After being found not guilty at trial he then shortly after became employed at her school by Cambridgeshire Council in full knowledge of his past.
Having approached a number of other firms in the years since reporting to the police, and being told that she did not have a claim, Naomi instructed BBK to investigate. This was not an easy case by far for a number of reasons. By this time, Naomi was 37 years old and therefore way out of time to bring a personal injury claim and as there was no conviction against the teacher she was required to prove the abuse by him. Quickly instructing a tracing agent it became clear however that the teacher was no longer in the country having sold his home many years before and on that basis he would not have sufficient assets to pay her any compensation, let alone that we would have any chance of finding him. However, as my client’s music teacher, it also became clear that the council were responsible for his actions as his employee and as such the claim began.
Given that the abuse took place nearly 20 years previously I was not expecting any documentation from the school to still exist. In this case however we struck lucky and the council still had the teacher’s personnel file in its possession. What was inside that file was shocking and in my opinion sealed the council’s fate; it contained letters from the headmaster of Naomi’s school confirming that he was informed of the teacher’s past charges at the previous school but was advised by the local education authority not to take this into account. There was also evidence that the teacher was not disciplined or supervised upon being moved to my client’s school. This was damning evidence of the council’s failure to protect Naomi.
Valuing the abuse claim
Sadly my client became anorexic shortly after the abuse began which was confirmed by her GP records. This was to plague her for many years as she tried to regain some control over her body whilst she was being abused. After reporting to the police Naomi also suffered a breakdown which then paved the way for nearly 20 years of serious mental health problems including self harming and numerous attempts at suicide.
As part of the claim I obtained medical reports from an expert psychiatrist to comment on how she had been affected by the abuse. She was diagnosed with depression, chronic post traumatic stress disorder and a harmful use of alcohol. As a result of these issues it was also concluded that she had never been able to hold down a job for longer than a few months and that this pattern would continue long into the future. She would also require psychiatric input for life.
As a direct result of the abuse therefore I argued that Naomi had never been able to pursue her dream of being a nurse, something she had wanted to do since secondary school and her teachers had stated she would have been very successful at. I also instructed an employment expert to plot her career and earnings had the abuse not occurred.
As the council continued to fight the claim the court set down a date for trial. The council then made an offer to settle Naomi’s claim in the sum of £300,000. This was a huge amount of money but I felt that her claim was worth significantly more than this and Naomi accepted my advice.
Shortly after, a settlement meeting was held to negotiate a higher sum of compensation. This resulted in an award of £550,000 for Naomi who was grateful that the council had finally acknowledged their mistakes. Whilst no amount of money can change what has happened to Naomi in the past and sadly the teacher still remains at large, this enormous amount of money is enough for her to change her future and attempt to move on with her life.
If you think that you may have a claim, please do not hesitate to contact our dedicated team for a free, confidential and no obligation discussion on 020 7288 4800. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Child Abuse team will get back to you. You can find out more about the team here.