The High Court has approved a five figure settlement in a case were a 6 year old girl was sexually assaulted by two 6 year old boys at a primary school.
The girl, called Bella to protect her identity, suffered sexually assaults on a daily basis over a six week period between October to November 2015 by two boys whilst attending school. She was threatened will violence if she told anyone. The boys have now left the school.
Solicitors representing Bella quickly became concerned over the school’s safeguarding procedures. Two members of staff had “previously witnessed the boys displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour towards Bella in the playground” and a member of staff had seen Bella with, “her underwear and tights partly removed with one of the boys standing behind her.” The incidents were not reported internally and Bella’s parents were not told. Bella only told her mother what was happening when she was in so much genital pain that she was unable to sit down.
In Bella’s court action it was argued that the local authority school were negligent as they had failed to train members of their staff to recognise warning signs and taken any action to prevent the assaults from taking place. They had failed in their duty to protect Bella from the assaults and adequately safeguard her. It was also alleged that the school were aware that the boys had a history of similar behaviour.
The local authority has not admitted liability but has paid compensation to Bella to help her now and in the future. Bella, since the assaults, has suffered nightmares, anxiety and is frightened to leave her home. Her parents have been paying for counselling for her. It is expected that Bella will need further counselling as she gets older.
When an assault is committed by a child younger than the age of 10 years old, they cannot be held to be criminally responsible for their actions.
Bella’s family hope that the court action will show Bella when she gets older that action was taken on her behalf and to also, “draw attention to the lack of support for children sexually assaulted by other pupils.”
Bella’s mother has said:
“The abuse that our daughter suffered at school has devastated her and our family. When she made her first disclosure, it felt like no one knew what to do and that every agency we turned to closed its doors to us.
Although the litigation has not been easy, we hope that when she is older it will help her understand that there was some accountability for what happened to her; that it should never have happened and that she was badly let down by those who were supposed to safeguard her while she was at school.
It matters for her I think when she’s older. She can make some sense of how she could be so seriously sexually assaulted so many times in a place where she should have been safe.
When she finds out that not only were the boys not prosecuted, not punished, but also the people who were responsible for keeping her safe didn’t even write an apology to say yes, we know we got it wrong and we’re sorry.
The financial damages will help us to fund Bella’s therapy and help us in trying to ensure that she feels safe in the future. We hope that our daughter’s case will highlight the need for even basic support and guidance for children and young people who are raped and sexually assaulted in schools, as well as greater training for teachers and school staff to prevent assaults happening in the first place.”
This case highlights the need to ensure that children are protected and safe in schools and services are in place to support children who have suffered sexual violence. The new Government Guidelines for schools in England to keep children safe do now make specific reference to peer on peer abuse. However, the “End Violence against Women Coalition” is calling for a “national strategy on sexual violence in Schools.”
Rachel Kry from the Coalition has said:
“Girls have a right to be safe in school and parents rightly expect that policies are in place and staff is trained to recognise when a girl is being sexually assaulted and move quickly to stop it.
Safeguarding girls from anyone who hurts them, including other children, has to be a priority. Schools can’t continue to turn a blind eye or minimise the harm done like they did in Bella’s case.”
Jordans Solicitors represent a large number of clients who have suffered sexual abuse when pupils at school. Where a person abuses their position of trust and commits an act of assault a claim may be possible. We would encourage anyone affected to contact Jordans Solicitors to pursue a civil claim free on 0330 300 1103.