Schools and colleges should be places where children are safe from harm, abuse or mistreatment. It is vital that young people have a safe supportive environment for them to learn and develop.
Teachers, including support staff and sports staff, are all in a position of trust and if a child or youth is groomed or abused by a member of staff then it can have a hugely damaging effect on their physical and mental development. Often children may feel the abuse is somehow their fault. Sometimes children may not understand that what is happening to them is even abuse at the time. The abuse may be sexual, physical or emotional and can have life-long consequences.
Abuse during childhood can result in childhood disorders going unnoticed. The psychological impact can sometimes stay hidden, only to be triggered by something in adulthood. Whilst compensation cannot remove these problems, it can help with the cost of therapeutic treatment. Sometimes compensation can mean a sense of closure and acceptance is achieved from the difficulties experienced in the past.
Our specialist solicitors at Verisona Law can help you make a claim if you were abused. Contact our caring team for guidance and advice on the options available to you. We act for most clients on a no win no fee basis, and we can also advise you about making a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
If a school or college employee such as a teacher committed the abuse, it is possible to make a claim against the individual involved. The better course of action is potentially to look at a claim against the school/local authority covering the school, as they are more likely to be insured against claims. Identifying the employer will depend on whether the school is private or a state school. If it is a state school, the local government authority is accountable. In a private school, the responsibility lies with the owner or the governors/trustees of the school.
Our experienced team are used to looking closely at the relationship between the abuser and the defendant and between the abuser and the abuse itself. We can advise on the best course of action for bringing your claim.
Generally a teacher or other member of staff who commits abuse closely connected to their employment duties will result in the organisation responsible for the school and teacher’s employment being vicariously liable for the abuse.
Some educational institutions provide a range of pastoral services to under 18s studying from overseas. If an employee or volunteer carrying out a pastoral role (for example a warden in a halls of residence) does so in a manner that breaches the trust placed in the institution by the under 18 year old, the institution is likely to be vicariously liable for the acts of the employee/volunteer.
Grooming and drawing the young person away from the school/college to abuse will not necessarily mean that vicarious liability cannot apply.
Where a person older than 18 is in a specified “position of trust”, such as a teacher, it is an offence for them to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 18. This law has applied since the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 came into force in January 2001, and applies even if the relationship is consensual. Prior to the Act, the age of sexual consent – 16 – was the only issue. In the school/college setting, this applies where the child is in full-time education and the person works in the same place as the child, even if the person does not teach the child.
Even if the parties feel they have an ‘genuine relationship’, safeguarding experts still consider it to be an abusive one, simply because it is an unbalanced power relationship and the adult is the abuser because they are abusing their power, authority and position.
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It is also possible to hold the organisation responsible by proving that they were negligent in allowing the abuse to take place, particularly if the school/college was not complying with their legal safeguarding duties. Potential safeguarding negligence issues to be considered in an abuse case include as follows:
Technically, you have until the age of 21 to issue a claim at court arising from abuse, but if you are older than 21 and you have suffered abuse it may still be possible to succeed with the claim. The courts understand that there are many reasons why victims of abuse may not be able to come forward sooner and can in some circumstances extent the time limit for bringing a claim.
Verisona Law will support you in this type of claim and are experienced at collecting evidence to show the courts exactly why the claim could not be made sooner and why it should be allowed outside the usual time limit.