Start your claim

December 17th 2020

Abuse

Damages of almost £1million paid to former pupils of London schools who were subjected to ‘criminal’ mistreatment’ in 70s and 80s

Malcolm Johnson

Malcolm Johnson

Senior Solicitor, Abuse

Damages of almost £1million paid to former pupils of London schools who were subjected to ‘criminal’ mistreatment’ in 70s and 80s

Damages totalling close to £1million have been secured by Hudgell Solicitors for dozens of former students of privately run schools in London where it is alleged they were subjected to ‘a physically and emotionally violent regime’ throughout 70s and 80s.

Damages totalling close to £1million have been secured by Hudgell Solicitors for dozens of former students of privately run schools in London where it is alleged they were subjected to ‘a physically and emotionally violent regime’ throughout 70s and 80s.

The claims relate to treatment of pupils over two decades at St James and St Vedast schools, which were established as an independent educational charity in 1975 by members of the School of Economic Science (SES).

At the time of their creation almost all parents of pupils were either members or spouses of members of the SES, an organisation influenced by orthodox Hinduism, promoting the study of meditation, philosophy and Sanskrit.

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.

However, an Independent Inquiry commissioned by owners the Independent Educational Association in 2005 after allegations were made by former pupils, found that between 1975-1985 the schools’ management and governors were ‘not in any real sense in charge’.

It concluded that ‘mental and physical mistreatment” of some pupils had occurred, including ‘criminal assaults’ by teachers.

Hudgell Solicitors has now secured five-figure damages settlements for 45 former pupils for their suffering, with a total of £988,500 compensation paid out so far.

Abuse was ‘clearly unreasonable and criminal’

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.

Damages of up to £30,000 being awarded to former pupils

Solicitor Malcolm Johnson, an abuse compensation claims specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, has led the firm’s work in securing damages for 45 former pupils so far.

He launched damages cases on their behalf and agreed a compensation scheme through law firm BLM, who are representing the Independent Educational Association (IEA). Settlements have been agreed although no admission of liability has ever been made.

He said: “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.

“The claims we submitted alleged they had been subject to a physically and emotionally violent regime, in some cases over the entire period of their time at the schools from the ages of five to 18.

“The abuse in the cases we have secured damages from covered a period from 1975 to 1992.

“What we uncovered during the course of our investigations was a harsh regime, which left many of my clients with lasting damage. The accounts of beatings and the emotional abuse and humiliation of children are shocking.”

Other pupils who suffered urged to come forward as compensation scheme set to close in 2021

Mr Johnson is now urging others who suffered at either St James or St Vedast in the 70s and 80s to come forward, as the compensation scheme is to close in January.

“The defendant solicitors have informed me that 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, which will be a longer, more drawn out and difficult route to compensation,” said Mr Johnson.

“I am proud that Hudgell Solicitors has worked hard to bring about successful cases in this matter, and to establish an agreed compensation scheme with BLM in this case. I would not want people to miss out on damages they truly deserve by simply not being aware of it.

“Consequently, I would urge any former pupils who believe that they may have a claim to get in contact as soon as possible.”

Schools now ‘fully independent’ and with excellent inspection reviews

At the time of the Inquiry findings being 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’.

At its conclusion, the school issued a statement, which read: “Without the pioneering approach of our former colleagues we could not be as confident in our efforts today.

“Of course mistakes will always be made when something new is underway, and these are regrettable. We very much hope this Inquiry has enabled pupils with past grievance to set it behind them and to come and see the schools of today for themselves.”

Today, three fee-paying schools for children aged 4 to 18 form St James’ Independent Schools in London (UK). They are still under the ownership of the IEA. A Junior School and Senior Girls’ School are based in West London, close to Hammersmith and Kensington Olympia, and a Senior Boys school is based in Ashford, Surrey.

In October 2019, the junior school was inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), which said ‘All pupils have extremely positive attitudes to learning which are instilled through high expectations and a supportive environment that recognises and celebrates effort as well as success.’

On the schools’ website today, it says ‘Although significant support was given by the friendship of the School of Economic Science during the early years of St James’ foundation, the schools have grown to become fully independent entities whose reputations attract the greatest respect within their local communities and in the wider educational world.’

What Our Clients Say