A teenage girl, Susan, was attending her school in east London when she was asked to participate in a practical exercise along with a number of her classmates, all of whom, in this small group, were boys. Those boys who were previously known to the school for their inappropriate behaviour proceeded to carry out a sexual assault upon Susan. She immediately reported the sexual attack, which resulted in the boys being arrested and charged with offences. They stood trial and were convicted for that sexual attack.
Although their conviction brought some justice to Susan and her family, she was left distraught and anxious, as a consequence of what these boys did. She was unable to return to school and therefore had to get used to a new school environment. However, this did not work out for her and, entirely understandably, her performance at school declined. She was predicted to obtain good grades at GCSE but, because of the impact upon her mental health from this vicious attack, she did not achieve those grades.
We met with Susan and her mother after the boys had been convicted. To compound her distress, she learnt that the boys were appealing their conviction although thankfully that came to nought. Nevertheless, she was worried that she may see the boys again when going around town, as they also lived locally to the school. Indeed, years after the assault she did see one of the boys at a train station which caused her significant distress.
Although a claim for compensation could have been made against each of the boys for the harm caused, this step was not taken as it was considered unlikely that they would have the money to pay any compensation claim. Therefore, a claim was advanced against the school for failing to take appropriate steps to protect Susan from harm. It was a grave error to place boys, known to be badly behaved, in a room with one solitary girl. Sadly, the insurers of the school did not accept legal responsibility for what the boys did although sought to buy Susan’s claim off by making her a derisory offer of £10,000. We advised Susan and her mother that this was inadequate and that she should fight on, to obtain justice and a reasonable level of compensation for the continuing psychiatric effects from the sexual assault.
We obtained expert medical evidence from a consultant psychiatrist to understand the impact upon Susan. The consultant psychiatrist met with Susan and her mother, considered the medical history and made a diagnosis of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. The psychiatrist recommended therapeutic intervention, suggesting cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive processing therapy and I movement desensitisation and reprocessing.
We persuaded the lawyers and insurers acting for the school that they should fund this psychiatric treatment. A period of therapy was undertaken and at the time of settling the claim Susan was continuing to receive the benefit of specialist psychiatric support to help her overcome the continuing impact of her teenage experience.
The lawyers and insurers of the school did not formally accept legal responsibility for what happened, but it was clear that they were to blame and thus we were successful in persuading the insurers of the school to make a compensation payment to Susan in excess of £100,000. At the time of settlement Susan was much improved and was pursuing vocational training to allow her to work in the beauty industry.
Susan will never forget this terrible experience as a teenager, but the therapy will hopefully enable her to cope with the continuing symptoms and, importantly, ensure that that event does not dominate her life. She now has the tools to cope with her feelings and difficult situations and therefore we very much anticipate that she can look forward to a brighter future.
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