Criminal Injury

Children’s home abuse victim awarded CICA compensation 40 years later and urges others to come forward


Rebecca Pick

Senior Litigation Executive

6 min read time

A man who “kept quiet” for decades about the abuse he suffered at a London children’s home is urging others to come forward after finally being awarded damages.

David Harris, now aged 52, says he was groomed and exploited for years after he was placed in the council run home, Grafton Close in Hounslow, West London.

He was sent there in 1981 aged 11 and says the home’s manager, who has since died, physically and sexually abused him over several years.

Mr Harris says the experience “ruined” his life and, for decades, he became reliant on drugs and alcohol and was at times “close to leaving this world”.

“I was 11 and it was a very scary place. To be abused, it shapes you for the rest of your life. It was just dreadful and I was not the only one,” he recalled.

Mr Harris says he was placed in the care system after repeatedly running away from home after being abused by a family member, “it was safer at the time to live on the streets,” he said.

‘He was evil and untouchable’

He spent a year at Grafton Close where he was then abused by the home’s manager at the time, abuse he says which included repeatedly being raped, “he was a horrible man, and he knew right away that I was vulnerable and he jumped on that. He would also get me drunk and keep me drunk, which was the start of my 34-year alcohol addiction,” said Mr Harris.

“He was evil and untouchable. He knew the system and what he could get away with and if he wanted to take a child out of bed at night, he would.”

Even when Mr Harris returned to his parents, the manager would call for him and take him to his home, “sometimes I would just disappear for days,” he said.

Mr Harris officially left the care system aged 17, but when he moved in with an adult man, recommended by Grafton Close staff, he was abused again.

Eventually, he says, he found the courage to say “no” and the abuse stopped but it would take him another 30 years to report it to the police.

After contacting Hudgell Solicitors’ criminal injuries team Mr Harris was initially offered a small, three-figure-sum, by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) for the abuse he suffered at Grafton Close.

“That children’s home was a nightmare and I thought offering me that for what I suffered was an insult considering the effect it has had on my life; it ruined it.

“By the time I left I was already broken. I was drinking and got involved in petty crime and took drugs.

“I went to prison, and I was in and out of psychiatric wards for years with depression, anxiety and mental breakdowns; there were suicide attempts as well,” said Mr Harris who eventually became an outreach worker with the homeless.

‘He has suffered a disabling mental health injury which has lasted decades’

Hudgell Solicitors’ CICA expert, litigation executive Rebecca Pick, applied for the compensation award to be reviewed on behalf of Mr Harris.

The CICA refused, saying medical evidence did not support his claim that he suffered an ongoing disabling mental injury.

“We then submitted an appeal and a tribunal judge agreed that a specialist independent medical report should be carried out. Then, after seeing a psychiatrist it was agreed he would receive the correct award, which was more than ten-times the original sum,” she said.

Mr Harris was eventually diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“The terrible abuse he suffered as a child has impacted so many areas of his life. Not being able to work because of the effects of mental ill health has a huge effect on my client’s earnings, both in the past and in the future.

“I’m pleased that this has now been recognised, because he has suffered a disabling mental health injury which has lasted decades, and at first CICA didn’t take that into account.

“Compensation awards can never undo the wrongs suffered, but they do recognise the harm caused by abuse, which can be an important step forward for survivors in their recovery.

“It has been a pleasure to represent him and to seek justice for him,” she said.

Mr Harris said the result had been life changing, “I still feel overwhelmed as it’s recognition for what I’ve been through; I finally feel I have been listened to,” he said.

‘The truth can be a powerful thing’

Now living in Surrey with his second wife and children, Mr Harris says he decided to go to the police to report the abuse after he read a news report online about a friend at Grafton Close, Peter Hatton-Bornshin, who took his own life after he was also abused there.

“Reading about it after all those years really opened-up a can of worms for me. I’d kept quiet for so long, but I decided then not to hide away anymore.

“Reporting it has given me back control; I did not have that as a child, but now I can say what I want and move forward.

“It has been a struggle; my first marriage couldn’t survive it, my children suffered too, but I have managed to turn my life around and I’ve been 11 years dry now and rebuilding the relationship with my family.

“Rebecca has been a wonderful support and I now want to support others who have been through similar experiences. It is important to help because opening-up about abuse is not an easy decision, I know that. But the truth can be a powerful thing and I want others to know you don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Police have since informed him that no-one would be prosecuted for the abuse due to a lack of evidence and the children’s home manager at Grafton Close at the time, has since died.

Mr Harris, who has worked for eight years supporting homeless people, says he plans to continue as a senior outreach worker, “it’s more than just a job to me to help those who may have suffered similar things as a child that could have led them to living rough on the streets,” he said.

Making a Criminal Injuries Claim

If you or a member of your family has come to harm as a result of a crime, you have a right to seek compensation for those injuries. We put your interests first, ensuring the most appropriate and effective legal specialists are handling your claim.

The first step is to get in touch using our online claim form. From here, one of our expert criminal injury lawyers will contact you for a confidential discussion of your circumstances, guiding you on the best path forward.

Read more: Criminal Injuries Compensation Claims

Download guide

Seeking Justice After Criminal Injury

Your local criminal injury experts.


Related Advice

Related Advice

Expertise. Trust. Authority

View All
Criminal Injury

Criminal Injury

It often takes a great deal of courage to report a rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse to the police. Not everyone is aware that as part of the justice process, victims are entitled to seek an award from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority – or CICA for short. Listen to Tracy Thames, a CICA […]

Elder Abuse

How do our lawyers support survivors of abuse?

Who will I speak to about making an abuse claim? We know complete trust and confidence between ourselves and those we represent is one of the most important aspects of the support we provide. That is why we have a dedicated team of specialist abuse lawyers supporting those who bravely come forward to discuss the […]

4 min read time

Related News

Related News
View All
domestic abuse survivor awarded £22,000 criminal injuries compensation was successfully represented by hudgell solicitors

Woman awarded £22,600 damages for years of domestic and sexual abuse

A woman who was abused by her partner for more than a decade has been awarded damages by a Government scheme to compensate victims of violent crime – even though he was never convicted of any offence against her. The woman, of Northamptonshire, was left devastated after being told charges against her partner for coercive and controlling […]

1 min read time
Start my claim