The Prosecutors: Terra Nova

Last night’s television programme, The Prosecutors, which aired at 9pm on BBC Four, detailed the case of a man named Keith Cavendish-Coulson, who taught French at a private school, named Terra Nova in Cheshire, during the 1970s.

There was a total of 13 original complainants – 12 of those were from the Terra Nova preparatory school and the 13th happened 10 years later, whilst he was being privately tutored by Coulson. Allegations against Coulson were that he indecently assaulted the boys. One said he was kind and befriended him when he was missing home, but ended up taking advantage of his neediness. The victim stated he knew was Coulson was doing was wrong, but he was “completely unable to stop him”.

Another victim in the programme stated that he felt uncomfortable talking about Coulson and the horrific acts that he carried out on him. He stated that he hadn’t been able to confide in anyone “until now”, the main reason being because the teachers at the school appeared to have the “ultimate power” throughout the school, so making any kind of complaint was out of the question. When one pupil finally did, it was met with a “wall of silence” and it was this which enabled Coulson to continue his crimes and even continue teaching at other school, including Slindon College in Arundel, West Sussex, and St John’s Beaumont School in Windsor.

Coulson was a former French master, originally from Newbury in Berkshire. He resigned during the 1980s for “health reasons” rather than what turned out to be a cover up for his crimes. He would summon them to his desk in class where he would inappropriately touch them. He also allowed boys to visit him in his private dorms where he would befriend them. He has also been accused of visiting boys in their rooms where he would indecently assault them.

Coulson denied committing the crimes and his defence statement said that the victims have been able to collude information, due to the police giving away details about the case in the press which has allowed various people to come forward.

However, in examining the evidence, prosecution felt that is wasn’t possible for the victims to have any contact. They were now living all over the country and would have only had contact until age 13, as Terra Nova was a prep school, so collusion was deemed incomprehensible.

He took the chance that as a non-recent case relying on people’s memories in giving evidence can be different. Also, evidence at the scene, for example, was long gone so it would be difficult to link evidence in that way. But, it is possible to use other statements to support evidence in these cases. For example, in the Coulson case, parents submitted complaints to the school about Coulson, which eventually led to arrangements being made by the headmaster for Coulson to leave his post at the school. Both the parents’ statements of complaint and the headmaster would be valuable supporting witnesses to the case.

Coulson’s trial was to take place on 27th October 2014, but as investigations progressed, a further 13 victims came forward, which brought a total of 26. However, all 26 would not be tried at the same time, because if Coulson was successfully convicted at the first trial, the hope is that Coulson will see sense and plead guilty to the other 13 – that way, those victims from the second group won’t have to give evidence and face their past.

It worked and on the day of his trial, Coulson pleaded guilty to 42 counts of indecent assaults during the 70s and 80s.The Judge said that Coulson’s “catalogue of crimes” were “shocking” and that the boys should have been able to look to look to him to be treated with respect, not “wholesale sexual abuse”. He was jailed for 6 years and 9 months.

Victims are not just located by the police – they come forward of their own accord. This is recognised by the prosecutors involved with the case, but also the lawyers as well. I currently look after a quarter of the cases involved with the Coulson case and we are currently pursuing civil claims for compensation from the school. It will not mend the harm caused, but it will enable some of the victims to seek specialist professional help and obtain some justice and closure that they so deserve.

It’s clear that Coulson abused his position of trust, made worse by the fact that the school knew what was happening and covered up the situation to protect themselves, when they should have been protecting the children in their care.

If you have been affected by any information given here and you would like some legal advice, then you can call the Verisona Law team today – we’d be happy to help.

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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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.

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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
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  • 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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