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October 19th 2021

Abuse

Father-of-three awarded £131,000 by Government compensation scheme for sexual abuse by teacher at North Devon boarding school four decades ago

Tracy Thames

Tracy Thames

Litigation Executive, Criminal Injuries

Father-of-three awarded £131,000 by Government compensation scheme for sexual abuse by teacher at North Devon boarding school four decades ago

A 50-year-old father-of-three who alleged he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a former boarding school teacher four decades ago has been awarded £131,000 damages through a Government scheme.

A 50-year-old father-of-three who alleged he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a former boarding school teacher four decades ago has been awarded £131,000 damages through a Government scheme.

The man, of Feltham, west London, has been awarded a compensation settlement by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), a Ministry of Justice funded scheme to support victims of violent crime.

It comes after an application was made on his behalf by Hudgell Solicitors, setting out his allegations of suffering repeated sexual abused in the early 80s by a member of staff at the former Dennington College (later known as Russell College), in Barnstaple, North Devon, when aged 12-14.

When finally plucking up the courage to report the abuse to Devon & Cornwall Police in 2015, the man said he was told his former teacher had since died, having served time in prison for child abuse.

The damages were awarded in recognition of impact the abuse has had on the man’s life, even though the police complaint was made after his alleged abuser had died.

Victim ‘broke down in floods of tears’ when ‘finally believed’

The man, who says he has told his own children and those close to him about the abuse he suffered, says he ‘broke down in floods of tears’ when told he was being awarded the damages, as he was ‘finally being believed and understood’.

As part of his claim to the CICA it was stated that he had been repeatedly sexually abused by the same man.

He hopes that by sharing his story many other people who suffered similar abuse, at his boarding school and others, will come forward to find similar support.

“It was so important to me that somebody somewhere recognised what had happened to me as a child, and this process has given me that,” he said.

“It has not been about the money at all but about somebody actually saying to me that they believed me. I bottled this up my entire life and relied on drugs and alcohol to get through and past the demons in my head. I tried to cope with it alone and felt so embarrassed. I even kept it from my wife for 10 years.

“I did everything to hide it and it was only when our eldest son was getting to a similar age to that I was when I was abused that I told my wife. I had to tell her why I was such a mess and unable to cope.

“I suffered a mental health breakdown and I haven’t worked for more than 13 years. At one point I just couldn’t cope with life and actually attempted suicide by taking an overdose. I had to come clear to my wife regarding everything as it got to the point where I thought she may leave me because of how I was acting.

“When I went to the police I still didn’t feel there had been any sense of justice. I was just told that he had died and that he had been in prison for child abuse. They basically said to go home and forget it.

“It seemed like that was the end of it and there was no more I could do. That’s why we ended up turning to solicitors and seeking legal advice.

“I have decided to share my story as I feel I’ve finally had some form of closure now. This can happen to anybody as a child, and that is a message I want to come across loud and clear. I was in floods of tears when told my case had been accepted. This can never change what happened to me, but it has now been recognised by others and the CICA.

“I feel there will be many others out there who, like me, had something like this happen to them. There will be more people who have hidden it all their lives.

“I now know there is no shame in what happened to me. I was a young boy who was groomed and abused and I was a victim. The abuse started as an isolated incident but then became more frequent and more extreme. That’s how it happens.

“I don’t have any trust to allow anyone into my life now and that impacts on us as a family. I would love to get back to work and be able to support my family again but cannot at the moment due to my mental health issues. I can’t go out the house much and only go out for short periods. I can’t have anyone near.”

Solicitors sought information from police when making case for damages

Hudgell Solicitors represented the man in making his claim for damages, with CICA claims specialist Tracy Thames establishing that had the former teacher still been alive today, the allegations made in 2015 would have led to Devon & Cornwall Police seeking to prosecute.

Mrs Thames said: “This was a case where, due to the length of time between the alleged attacks and the matter being reported to the police, there was little evidence to present and also, of course, we were told the alleged abuser had since died.

“However, in cases such as this we are able to seek information into any previous police investigations or complaints, and this can be taken into account by CICA to consider whether there is a likelihood that the offence took place.

“The standard of proof is different to criminal law, and that helps in situations like this one, as despite issues with data protection, it was indicated by police that the alleged abuser had possibly had previous convictions relating to sexual offences against children, and that other pupils had possibly made allegations against him.

“Cases are judged individually and on the evidence available to them, including police investigations and detailed psychological assessments which consider the impact on victims.

“We are pleased that this case resulted in a substantial award and our client expressed his wish to share his own story in the hope that it helps others feel they are able to speak out or seek the support they need. He has been very brave in doing so.”

The man’s wife of 16 years, who is 47, said she was grateful for the legal support provided.

She said: “Getting this result has been so important. When the police told us the abuser had died it felt like there was nowhere else to go, but we found out about the compensation scheme, and given the abuse happened so many years ago we realised we needed solicitors to help us make a case.

“To see my husband cry when being awarded the damages was really emotional. It was because, after all of those years of suffering, he had finally been believed and finally had some recognition of what he has been through.

“When he finally plucked up the courage to tell me about what had happened to him it was like unlocking Pandora’s box. We have been together 27 years and I have seen the impact this has had on him first hand. He has lived a chaotic life, turning to drink and drugs when he needed understanding and support.

“I am so proud he has come through this, and that he is now sharing his story to help others find the strength he has. He has been clean of drugs for 10 years and is a great husband and father. We feel we can now move on.”

Find out more about making a CICA claim here >>

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