Former pupil awarded compensation of £70,000 for abuse at school
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We have recently concluded an abuse at school claim for a former student who was sexually assaulted by her teacher back in 1984.
Our client was in Year 3 at the time and her class teacher was Raymond Cullens. He was a supply teacher who was only at the school for the first term of that academic year. Mr Cullens came across as a very friendly teacher and he was well liked by the pupils.
However, Mr Cullens began to act inappropriately towards our client. He started by putting his arm around her waist whilst marking her work. This was followed by an improvised game in the classroom at lunchtimes when he would chase her and smack her bottom if he caught her. From here his behaviour descended even further to the point where he placed his hand underneath her skirt and seriously sexually assaulted her. A further assault took place in the school hall.
Like so many young victims of abuse our client did not feel able to disclose her abuse at school for many years. In 1992, she told her mother what had happened and the Police were subsequently involved. Two other girls came forward making similar complaints about incidents at school and Mr Cullens pleaded guilty to sexual offences against our client and others. He was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison.
Despite all she had been through, our client went on to have a very successful career and raise a family. To the outside observer she appeared to be doing extremely well, but in reality she struggled with her mental health. She was able to maintain this for a number of years, before having a sudden breakdown a few months before her 40th birthday. After a period of time off work she realised she would be unable to recover sufficiently to return to work.
As she was struggling to get the level of support she needed at the time of her breakdown, her husband spoke to a member of our specialist abuse team. Although she was ‘out of time’ for bringing a school abuse compensation claim, we felt there were good prospects of overcoming this hurdle and agreed to deal with her case on a no win, no fee basis.
When abuse takes place in a school a compensation claim can be made against the person who carried out the abuse. However, it is often better to make the claim against the school itself or the local authority that is responsible for running it. This is because these institutions are insured and will have the money to pay the compensation that is awarded.
If it is a state school, the local authority will be responsible. In a private school, responsibility lies with the owners or the governors of the school. Our specialist team is highly experienced at identifying the best course of action to take and can explain the options open to you.
Because of the passage of time it was not possible to trace the key documents that we would normally rely on in an abuse at school claim. However, our client had retained some newspaper cuttings and letter from 1992 which when considered together were supportive of her case.
In order to assess the full extent of the impact of the abuse upon our client, a specialist medical expert wrote a report. We also prepared a detailed calculation of the financial losses and expenses our client had suffered throughout her lifetime as a result of the abuse that occurred while she was at school. This included the cost of private treatment for her mental health issues and a substantial claim for lost earnings.
In order to achieve the best possible outcome for her, we appointed an experienced barrister before arranging a joint settlement meeting. This involved a meeting with the local council responsible for running the school and their legal representatives. We supported our client throughout this process and the meeting resulted in an out of court settlement being reached. This provided for our client to receive compensation totalling £70,000, plus her legal costs.