We were approached by our client (Mr K) who attended Caldicott Preparatory school as a weekly boarder from the mid 60s to early 70s, to help him get justice for abuse that he suffered at the school. The school should have been a safe, happy environment for Mr K where he could thrive and receive an excellent education to set him up for the future. Sadly, this was not the case and Mr K experienced sexual, physical and emotional abuse during his time there by three teachers including the deputy headmaster, his maths teacher and science teacher. The abuse Mr K endured has left him emotionally damaged and has caused him significant psychological difficulties from which he
continues to suffer.
Mr K tried to lock away the abuse in his mind and close the door on it for many years. Eventually in 2018 Mr K decided to seek justice through the criminal courts for the abuse he endured, by reporting the abuse to the police.
Unfortunately, by the time Mr K reported the matter to the police the deputy headmaster had passed away. The maths teacher was 87 years old and in a care home on a full care package with recollection difficulties. She was therefore deemed unfit to stand trial by the police and the case against her was not pursued any further. The science teacher had been convicted of serious sexual offences including rape in 2003 in relation to two other boys who had attended the school and was sentenced to 2 years in prison following a guilty plea.
He was convicted again in 2018 in relation to further serious sexual assaults at another school in Sussex and received a 5 year prison sentence. Unfortunately the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided that despite there being enough evidence to charge the teacher in relation to the abuse against Mr K, it was not in the public interest to do so as it would not increase his total sentence given in 2018 of 5 years imprisonment.
How we helped
Mr K approached us in 2018 and we agreed to take on his case and investigate a civil claim for abuse against Caldicott Preparatory School. We were able to secure Legal Aid funding for his claim and we proceeded to obtain a full, detailed statement from Mr K and all of his historic records.
We then sent a detailed letter to the trust that ran the school (the Defendant), setting out the basis of Mr K’s claim.
The Defendant raised a limitation defence, arguing that the claim was outside the relevant time limit and that they would face significant prejudice in being able to defend the claim given the amount of time that had passed since the abuse occurred and the effect this would have on the evidence available.
We instructed a consultant psychiatrist to see Mr K and produce a report upon the psychological effects of the sexual and physical abuse. The medical expert diagnosed Mr K with moderately severe complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused solely by the abuse, Recurrent Major Depression which the abuse had contributed to, and Harmful Use of Alcohol which was as a result of Mr K’s PTSD.
Despite raising a limitation defence, the Defendant made an offer in the sum of £15,000 to settle the claim. The Defendant advised that they intended to obtain their own psychiatric evidence should the claim be continued, meaning Mr K would have had to see a further expert and recount details of the abuse yet again. Mr K understandably did not wish to undergo a further psychological assessment and recount the abuse again, so he decided to accept the offer. He also faced the risk that if he continued with the claim a court would not allow it to proceed outside of the time limit.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Claim
Whilst the civil claim was ongoing, we also made a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
Even though Mr K had already received compensation from his civil claim, the CICA are still able to make a reduced payment under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme by reducing any award they make by the amount of compensation received from the civil claim.
In the CICA’s first decision, they made an award of £13,500 for a disabling mental injury lasting 5 years or more but not permanent. This was reduced to nil once the compensation from Mr K’s civil claim was deducted.
Mr K found this decision to be insulting given that he was now in his 60s and had lived with his condition for almost his whole life. We agreed to challenge the CICA’s decision on Mr K’s behalf on the basis that Mr K had suffered a permanently disabling mental injury and should therefore be entitled to a higher award under the Scheme. We asked that the CICA review their initial decision and unfortunately they maintained that Mr K did not have a permanent mental injury.
We appealed this decision to the First-Tier Tribunal and the matter was referred to a Tribunal Judge for a decision. We successfully argued that the Tribunal should make their decision based on the papers without the need for an oral hearing, which was important for Mr K who did not feel able to attend an oral hearing, due to his mental health condition.
We are delighted that the Tribunal Judge agreed with our arguments that Mr K had sustained a permanent mental injury as a result of the abuse.
The Judge commented that he found the expert medical evidence that we had obtained ‘compelling’ on this point, and he was satisfied Mr K’s condition was permanent. Our client was awarded £19,000 under the Scheme, which was reduced by £15,000 to reflect the compensation he had already received, leaving an additional £4,000.
This was a great result for our client and a good example of how the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme can be used to supplement a civil claim and obtain additional compensation, particularly where a civil claim has settled for a lower amount due to the risks involved in taking it to a trial.
Mr K was particularly pleased with the Tribunal Judge’s comments which he felt validated the suffering he has endured and were an important acknowledgement of the harm that had been caused by the abuse. Although no amount of compensation will put right the harm that Mr K has suffered, we are pleased to have been able to help him on his journey to achieving justice. We wish him all the best.
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