Physical and Emotional Abuse
St James Schools’ compensation for ‘physical and emotional abuse’
St James Schools was founded in January 1975 and was inspired by the parents who were students of philosophy in the School of Economic Science.
Two schools, St James and St Vedast, were established and run by independent educational charity, the Independent Educational Association (IEA), with its own board of governors.
Originally located in Queen’s Gate and Sarum Chase, Hampstead, the schools began with pupils aged 4-8 years old and soon expanded into secondary education.
In February 2004, the governors of the school were made aware of a series of allegations relating to the application of discipline by teachers during the early years of the development of both schools in the 1970s and 80s. Many of the complaints related to either excessive use of corporal punishment, or inappropriate application of discipline in general.
As a result the school governors approached highly respected QC James Townend to carry out an independent inquiry into the allegations made.
Findings of the Independent Inquiry
Inquiry chairman James Townend QC said boys in particular had been subjected to rough handling at the school and were ‘criminally assaulted by being punched in the face or in the stomach’ or being ‘cuffed violently about the head.’
The inquiry heard they ‘had blackboard rubbers thrown at them causing injury in some cases, had cricket balls thrown at them violently when they were not looking at the thrower and were struck with the end of a gym rope.’
In his report, Mr Townend QC added that ‘other students were kicked, struck from behind, slapped about the face and thrown across a classroom’.
He said: ‘Whatever the provocation nothing could justify this mistreatment. It was clearly unreasonable and criminal’.
Although girls were not said to have been treated as badly, a number complained of being subjected to ‘various forms of verbal humiliation in front of their classes’, with some ‘mistreated physically and mentally by male teachers’, including spanking on the bottom with a hand, slipper or shoe.
By the time the Inquiry findings were published in January 2006, Mr Townend QC said it was clear there had been ‘a real change in the ethos and conduct’ at the school, with a ‘relaxed atmosphere between pupils and teachers’.
The forming of a legal compensation scheme
Solicitor Malcolm Johnson, of Hudgell Solicitors, was first contacted with regards to pursuing compensation by former pupils of the schools in 2017 and, given the findings of the Inquiry, sought to support people in pursuing legal cases for damages relating to ‘physical and emotional abuse’.
Mr Johnson, who has extensive experience in running abuse claims, representing both child and adult survivors of abuse and neglect, collected a substantial amount of documentary evidence and initially launched claims on behalf of some 25 Claimants in September 2017.
Following this the Independent Educational Association (IEA) and its insurers instructed solicitors, BLM, to handle the claims.
The two legal parties agreed a compensation scheme, which has resulted in settlements between £12,500 and £30,000 for clients of Hudgell Solicitors, although no admission of liability has ever been made.
Mr Johnson has also obtained apologies from the school for each of his clients.
Deadline of January 31 2021 for former pupils to submit claims
The agreed compensation scheme, for which damages up to £30,000 can be awarded, is to close on January 31st 2021. After that any claims will have to be dealt with under the Civil Procedure Rules.
This will be a longer, more drawn out and difficult route to compensation, so people are encouraged to contact Malcolm Johnson to discuss whether they will qualify for damages as part of the scheme as soon as possible.
‘People were undoubtedly damaged by their experiences’
Mr Johnson said: “I am proud that Hudgell Solicitors has worked hard to bring about successful cases in this matter and I would not want people to miss out on damages they truly deserve by simply not being aware of it.
“This has been a difficult case in which to secure justice and pursue damages for the former pupils of these schools, not least because this mistreatment happened decades ago, in times when the approach to discipline was very different in schools.
“However, make no mistake, the treatment of many pupils at this time was way beyond what was ever acceptable and as the chairman of the independent inquiry stated at the conclusion of his investigation, undoubtedly some pupils were damaged by their experiences there.”
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