February 2011 - Stowmarket child abuse claim settled out of court

Stowmarket child abuse claim settled out of court.

A girl from the Stowmarket area who was sexually abused by her grandfather has been awarded a six figure sum in compensation for her psychological injuries.

Miss B was seven when the assaults took place in August 2002. Her grandfather was found guilty of indecent assault at a criminal trial at Ipswich Crown Court in August 2008.

He was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment and his name was recorded on the sexual offenders register.

Miss B attended a child psychiatrist, Dr Robin Benians. His view was that she suffered a major depressive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. She also showed symptoms of aversion. All those problems were attributable to her grandfather's conduct towards her.

The case was particularly sensitive because the assaults were by a close member of the same family who lived nearby. Miss B's parents decided they could not contemplate living near the man who had assaulted their child when he was released from prison.

So they changed jobs and moved house to be as far away from him as possible. The family now live abroad.

The parents sought to recover damages for the assaults, the effect they had had on her, and for the heavy financial costs they had incurred.

Miss B had also been unable to attend school after the criminal trial. So her parents resorted to educating her by 'internet schooling' and some private tuition. These costs were also included in her claim.

Negotiations to settle the civil claim has been conducted through the two sides' lawyers. The six figure settlement has just been concluded out of court. But because Miss B is still a child the settlement had to be approved by a judge, Master Leslie at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The lawyer for Miss B and her parents is Tracey Emmott, a child abuse specialist from Bedford-based Emmott Snell. Tracey Emmott is also managing the cases of a number of those involved in the notorious Haut de Garenne Jersey child abuse scandal.

'While the judgment in this case can never turn back the clock it represents some recognition for Miss B's ordeal, which had significant consequences not only for her but also for her family,' says Tracey Emmott.

Experience suggests that little is done for child abuse survivors once a criminal trial is over. Yet after many years this cause of enormous hurt has at last also been recognized in the civil courts, in the form of an award of compensation.

The civil action can often be as scary an ordeal as the criminal proceedings, but it is another opportunity for a victim of abuse to confront the world openly about what has happened.

In this case, the damages awarded to the family are partly in recognition of the considerable expense to which they have been put in moving their lives and careers to another country.

Often though, child abuse survivors, particularly those who have suffered abuse within the family, undertake this kind of civil legal action as a cathartic exercise, in their road to some kind of recovery.

It's a way of taking control of events by feeling for the first time that they can look back on what has happened to them and actively secure proper recognition, in the form of compensation, for such a deep betrayal of trust'.