Abuse Survivors Blog

Sexual Violence Awareness Week – 5-9 February 2024

Written by Tracey Emmott on 19 Feb 2024

""Last week we supported the Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week by wearing the colour teal. T.E.A.L is an acronym for Togetherness, Empowerment, Advocacy and Learning which are values close to our heart.

As a law firm dedicated to representing survivors of sexual abuse or sexual violence, we are always pleased to encourage discussion about sexual abuse and sexual violence and relevant issues.

The recent landmark survey by the Criminal Bar Association revealing a critical shortage of lawyers doing rape and serious sexual offence cases is alarming . The average wait for a bailed rape trial to conclude since an alleged offence is now around 5 ½ years (offences committed in 2022 are reportedly being set for late 2026), and the backlog in the criminal justice system is now a record high of over 65,000.

Victims of sexual offences bear the brunt end of trial dates for sexual offences being delayed again and again. For them it feels like they put their lives on hold whilst the criminal process grinds on. The anguish and torment they experienced reporting the sexual offences is met with a lengthy criminal justice process and worse, the associated protracted uncertainty.

On the subject of criminal justice for victims, it is always salutary when justice through the criminal courts is not achievable. A tragic feature of historical childhood abuse is that due to the shame, stigma and mental health issues arising from it, victims are often unable to come forward until well into their adult life. This often means that justice eludes them, because their abusers are either dead or extremely elderly and frail. The case of “B” whom we recently successfully represented in a civil compensation claim, is a case in point.

Case Study – “B” v A London Public School

Our client “B” was a pupil at a prominent London school in the early 1980’s. When he was ten years old, he was subjected to multiple sexual assaults by a teacher, Kenneth Knight. The assaults included Knight touching our client’s genitals on a number of occasions when alone with our client. Kenneth Knight left the school shortly afterwards.

It took our client a few years until he was in his lower sixth year to summon the courage to report the abuse by Knight to the headmaster. The headmaster admitted to our client that Knight was removed from the school following other similar complaints in 1981.

Having been troubled through his adult life by his experiences at school, in 2022 our client submitted a complaint online to the Metropolitan Police.   Following an interview with the police, Kenneth Knight was traced and although he was elderly and in poor health, responded that he did not remember our client’s allegations but that “it probably did happen”. The police assessed Knight’s medical condition, age and the public interest and found that the evidential burden was not met because Kenneth Knight had not made a “full admission”. The police decided to take no further action in September 2022.

B contacted the current headmaster of the school and felt he had a productive and conciliatory meeting with him. He was reassured that the safeguarding standards at the school had greatly improved since 1980. He subsequently received a written apology from the headmaster for the abuse he had suffered at the hands of a teacher.

It is believed that Kenneth Knight died after the police investigation.

The Compensation Claim

Our client having felt cheated of getting justice through the criminal justice system, decided to pursue a compensation claim against the school who he argued were legally responsible for Kenneth Knight’s actions because he was B’s teacher at the relevant time. A formal Letter of Claim was sent which was unfortunately met with a robust and unsympathetic response by their legal representatives. In particular they defended the claim on the grounds that our client had not brought his claim “in time”. Applying the law strictly, our client had until his 21st birthday to bring a compensation claim. The school’s legal representatives also resisted the claim stating that they were unable to locate their insurer’s details.

In the course of our client’s claim, B met with a court expert for purposes of obtaining medico-legal evidence in support of his claim. The court expert opined that in the year 2000 our client suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and recommended trauma focused psychotherapy.

In order to break the log jam we advised B to make a “without prejudice” offer of settlement for a relatively modest sum which was also meaningful to our client. The school swiftly identified their insurers. Our client’s offer was accepted.

B’s success in his compensation claim went some way towards his feeling that he had been dealt with fairly by the justice system. Importantly, he hopes that by bringing his abuse to the school’s attention, the promised improved safeguarding measures and practices will be upheld.

The abuse survivor's guide to making a claim for compensation

Topics: Compensation

Tracey Emmott

Written by Tracey Emmott

Tracey Emmott is a solicitor with over 25 years’ experience in personal injury law. Previously she was a partner of a regional firm in the Home Counties.