Charles Derham - Verisona Law featured in the Portsmouth News - Young lawyer dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse

A smartphone in front of us lights up and vibrates its way across the table. It’s a news alert. I glance down and relate the subject matter to Charles Derham. Two damning reports have concluded that politicians, civil servants and NHS managers gave Jimmy Savile free rein to sexually abuse 60 people, including children as young as eight, over 20 years at Stoke Mandeville hospital. Charles nods. ‘I’ve got six cases against Savile,’ he says. He also has 194 other ongoing files. Each one is an excruciating tale of alleged child abuse, sexual and/or physical. he solicitor/advocate is an expert in abuse law. His job takes him around the world and his mission on a no-win-no-fee basis is to win compensation for his clients, the victims. ‘The money is not what matters to most of them,’ he says. ‘It’s what it symbolises – an admission, finally, from those who had a duty of care, that the client was abused. ‘That brings closure. Finally. Often after many decades.’ Most of his work leads him to take on big organisations such as education authorities, councils, the NHS, private schools, the Scout Association, those who were ultimately responsible for the depraved behaviour of an employee or representative. He says he has several current cases involving Hampshire County Council. Charles has been doing this work for the past six years, leading the small but perpetually busy Child Abuse Team within the firm of Portsmouth solicitors Verisona Law. ‘There was a fair amount of work when I started, but then came Savile and our workload increased fivefold. ‘Suddenly child abuse was much more out in the open. Victims felt they were able to talk and wouldn’t be ostracised or ignored if they did. ‘It opened the floodgates and the number of cases has avalanched. Savile has been a watershed.’ Charles is just 27. He’s of the social media generation and garners much of his work through his Facebook and Twitter accounts and his readable blog on the Verisona website. ‘That’s another reason victims now feel they can express themselves – the ease with which they can use electronic media to write it all down, press a button and send it to me. ‘There’s no awkward ’phone call; no plucking up courage to walk into a solicitor’s office to explain. I will then go to meet them at a place of their choosing.’ Those ‘places’ have taken him to Australia, New Zealand, Florida and Norway to name but a few. ‘Next week I’m in Belfast seeing a chap,’ he adds. Charles was about 10 when he decided a legal career was his goal. Brought up at Cowplain, he moved to Waterlooville and went to Cowplain Community School before four A-levels at South Downs College and a law degree at Kingston University, Surrey. He took the Legal Practice ourse at the College of Law in Guildford and passed his Higher Rights of Audience qualification in early 2012. This means he can represent his clients in the High Court – one of the youngest solicitors in the country to earn that right. ‘I was at the tail end of junior school and I just knew law was the right course for me. ‘I love arguing. I love researching something complex. I love getting my teeth into something. ‘I once spent three days in Cardiff going through microfiche after microfiche hunting for a newspaper article about a conviction. I had no idea when it had happened, but I found it and that perseverance enabled me to settle 24 child abuse cases. Yes, you could say I’m driven.’ Originally, Charles envisaged a career in commercial law ‘intellectual property law, international trade – that kind of thing’ he says. ‘I fell into the child abuse niche by accident. I was in the right place at the right time and I enjoyed the challenge of going back in time and trying to track down the perpetrators. ‘However, nothing could have prepared me for some of the things I’ve heard – the most horrific stories imaginable. ‘Of course I feel like I’m a counselling service. Often a client will say ‘‘you’re the first person I’ve ever told about this’’ which puts a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. ‘People sit in front of me and break down. You can’t help but be affected.’ Charles adds: ‘I’m a civil lawyer, not a criminal one. It could be that the criminal prosecution in a case has been completed and the client doesn’t feel they’ve got what they want, or don’t know where the perpetrator is now, or whether he is dead. ‘They want closure which means pursuing those who were ultimately responsible for them, the people who were meant to be looking after them. ‘I tell them I’m unlikely to get an apology because councils or institutions don’t like apologising as it could open the floodgates. ‘The best I can do for a client is force these organisations to settle out of court to avoid the publicity. But this still hits them where it hurts, having to pay out five or six-figure sums in compensation.’ Charles’s work is intense and emotionally draining. ‘There are days I reach a point where I have to switch off mentally and literally. I turn off the mobile, go home to Horndean and take the dog for a walk. ‘I suspect if I sat in the office at Waterlooville and thought about everything I’d been dealing with, it would slowly eat away at me.’ He admits the Savile case ‘changed my world’, saying: ‘There were indications something big was coming, but everyone in the profession was in awe of the number of people hiding what had happened to them. Savile was the igniter for people to come forward and talk.’ LINK BELOW

Charles has considerable specialist experience in pursuing claims for compensation for those who have been abused in childhood. His specific expertise means that he is recognised locally, nationally and internationally for his work which has taken him all over the world including, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

He is also recognised for his significant involvement in the high profile litigation against St Georges School (Anglemoss Limited) and Cyntwell High School. These cases involved a staggering number of individuals who pursued those responsible whom despite heavily defending the claims brought against them settled by way of out of court settlements.

Charles regularly features in local and national press and he is often asked to provide his professional opinion and commentary on relevant abuse law issues and developments on radio and television broadcasts. Such broadcasts include BBC South Today, BBC Wales, ITV and ITN News.

Charles is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.

You can follow Charles on Twitter and Facebook.

Charles obtained his Law degree at Kingston University, before successfully completing his Legal Practice Course. He trained and qualified with Verisona Law beginning his specialism in the field of child abuse claims. He received his higher rights of Audience in 2012 making him one of the youngest Solicitor-Advocates in the country who is able to represent his clients in the High Court. Charles is head of the abuse team who collectively have secured compensation for hundreds of victims of abuse.

He began diversifying in to other aspects of abuse law and his team are one of the very few in the country who specialise in claims against social services.

He is involved in complex group action litigation and also represents a number of individuals and who are pursuing private companies, local authorities and perpetrators in pursuit of their justice.

Charles has strong contacts with some of the most prominent barristers who advise on abuse claims including a number of QC’s. He also has robust connections with highly qualified expert witnesses he instructs in support of those who he represents.

  • Child abuse claims
  • Claims against social services
  • Complex/Catastrophic Clinical Negligence claims

"Thank you for all your much appreciated hard work. I will truly never forget your kindness towards me. Your patience, respect and understanding at all times was beyond words. The sincere compassion shown meant more to me than words could ever express. This firm will forever hold a special place in my heart."


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