Merrick on trial - William Henry Smith School

FORMER assistant headteacher has gone on trial accused of sexually abusing four pupils at a school for boys with behavioural difficulties. Peter Merrick, 66, is alleged to have systematically abused the boys, aged 11 to 15, at the William Henry Smith School in Rastrick over seven years in 1970s and 1980s. Merrick denies 20 charges of indecent assault and two of rape. Matthew Bean, prosecuting at Bradford rown ourt, told jurors the boys’ problems made them difficult to teach, but they had been sent to the school to help them. “The defendant, as a teacher at the school, knew that these were boys who needed care and support,” he said. “The defendant was in a position of particular responsibility and trust and he deliberately abused that position by committing these offences.” He told the court Merrick started working at the school in 1976, and was promoted to become the assistant headteacher in charge of residential care in 1979. He is alleged to have carried out the abuse around the school, including in the headteacher’s room, the shower area, the boot room and his own family’s living area. Merrick is also alleged to have abused one boy while they were on an orienteering trip and to have molested another youngster in his car. It emerged yesterday that police ended their investigation into Merrick after the first complainant came forward back in 1993. That inquiry had uncovered school records detailing an earlier complaint by one of the other boys. Mr Bean told the court Merrick was arrested, but police decided to stop the investigation after he denied the offences. About 15 years later, a new inquiry began after police were contacted by solicitors representing people making claims against the school for physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The first two complainants were spoken to again and a third alleged victim also came forward. Merrick maintained his denials but was charged. A fourth complainant then came forward earlier this year after seeing a newspaper report of the case. Mr Bean said all four men were still deeply affected by the alleged abuse. He said the complainants had not been friends at school and had not been in regular contact with each other before the investigation. “Each has decided separately to tell the police what the defendant did to them,” said Mr Bean. He said one complainant ran away from the school after Merrick allegedly raped him, but was stopped and sent back by police, and the abuse continued. nother complainant alleged that Merrick began to indecently touch him after sending him to the shower room to take a cold shower as a punishment. The trial of Merrick, now of Overseal, erbyshire, is expected to last about eight days and is currently on it's third day. We would be keen to speak to anybody who attended William Henry Smith School as they may have rise to a civil claim for compensation.

Lisa has specialised in childhood abuse and social care negligence for the last 8 years and has extensive experience in relation to civil abuse litigation, CICA claim maximisation and Redress Scheme claims. She offers a sympathetic and professional approach to her clients’ problems and advises on funding options (including insurance and Conditional Fee Agreements.)

Since 2018 she has travelled around the country to see clients who were failed by Lambeth Council during their childhood in order to collate evidence for submission to the Lambeth Children’s Home Compensation Scheme. Lisa’s style of working is tailored to providing emotional support whilst applying the specialist legal expertise required to ensure her client’s have the best evidence for making a successful claim.

Lisa is able to access key psychiatric and social care experts to obtain evidence and therapy recommendations for clients. She can direct clients to treatment providers if required. Often such treatment costs can be claimed as part of the compensation process. This is a priority to ensure her clients have the best opportunity to make positive steps into the future. Lisa excels in applying questions to psychiatric experts to clarify and ensure they have a deeper understanding of the case issues where required. She is also experienced in negotiation to maximise outcome according to specific scheme terms.

For the last year and half, Lisa has been leading the firm’s participation in the National Abuse Inquiry specifically relating to the IICSA Lambeth investigation acting on behalf of 6 core participants. Such work involved the preparation of core participant applications, section 40 funding applications, detailed consideration of social care record evidence, witness statements preparation, attending preliminary hearings for consideration on the extent of other key party involvement, detailed work on documentary disclosure evidence from the council, police and other core participants to identify deep seated failings within the past care and policing systems, cross referencing, and work with counsel on composing Rule 10 questioning of corporate and police witnesses giving evidence at the IICSA Lambeth hearing. Lisa also accompanied a key core participant giving evidence to the IICSA hearing providing support and understanding to ensure her client’s evidence was sensitively taken into account when the panel make recommendations to protect children in the future. Questions were raised on the effectiveness of the current Serious Case Review system and how this has been operating within police and council’s across the country, something which has also been identified whilst working on specific civil cases. The hope is that improvements in the child protection mechanisms can ensure the safety of children in future.

Lisa also specialises in CICA claims, an area of work which has increased significantly following the lifting of the pre 1979 same home abuse rule which facilitated many victims being able to finally achieve justice relating to serious childhood abuse.

Lisa also has extensive particular experience in running civil claims relating to foster carer abuse, abuse in private/public/approved school institutions, church abuse, and abuse linked to gymnastics.

Her extensive knowledge of the Civil Procedure Rules, skills in evidence gathering and analysis of liability and causation, and experience in risk assessment and settlement negotiation make her a valuable asset to clients and colleagues alike.

Lisa has more than 20 years’ experience of dealing with Personal Injury matters ranging from road traffic accidents to workplace injury and liability.

Lisa is fluent in German and Persian. She also has experience in Civil Litigation regarding Debt Recovery, Breach of Contract, and Insolvency Law

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"I would like to express my profound heartfelt gratitude to Lisa Gafarov for all her hard work and understanding when representing me. She fought passionately for my case for two years.

Within this time, never once did I feel it was about the money for her. She was very considerate and dealt with many personal matters in a caring and professional way. It was a very sensitive case but she put in a lot of hard work and went the extra mile each time. Her wide range of expertise was indispensable during this difficult time. Because of this I trusted all her advice and as a result, this took a lot of pressure off of me.

She managed to reach a very amicable conclusion between the defendants and myself. You don’t know how much your passion impacts the lives of others. For this I am forever grateful. I would recommend your firm a hundred times over."
Anonymous, April 2019

Lisa studied ‘Contract Law, European Law and Employment Law’ as part of her degree in BA (Hons) Business Administration. She has also studied other business subjects, including accounting.

Having completed her degree, Lisa started work for Verisona Law in November 1999 in the Personal Injury department as a Trainee Litigation Clerk and since then has developed extensive skills in relation to personal injury litigation and case preparation.

  • Road traffic accidents
  • Accidents at work
  • Slip and trip claims
  • Occupier’s liability claims
  • Product Liability claims
  • Industrial disease claims
  • Work related upper limb disorder claims
  • Clinical negligence, including amputation claims
  • Cosmetic surgery claims
  • Abuse 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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