January 2003

Child abuse case settled out of court

A High Court damages action brought on behalf of residents of an allegedly ‘harsh and neglectful’ private children’s home was settled on Friday.

The case involved ten men and women who said they were subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse at Barlavington Manor, near Petworth, which closed in 1984.

The claimants, now in their 30s, who all lived at the home for periods of between three and 13 years in the 70s and 80s, said they had suffered long-term psychiatric damage.

Their case against the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Royal Borough of Southwark, who had sent children to Barlavington Manor, was that they were in breach of their statutory duty to ensure on a regular basis that the children were properly cared for.

The authorities denied liability.

Counsel Elizabeth Anne Gumbel QC said there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ that the children at the home, which was unregistered, were subject to abuse, neglect, physical injury and lack of adequate food,clothing or medical treatment.

She described the regime as ‘harsh and neglectful’.

Mr Justice Newman was told on the ninth day of the hearing in London that five claimants had settled their cases against Kensington and Chelsea without any admission of liability.

The total sum of 142,000 included legal costs and the largest sum awarded to any of the five was 22,500.

Four of the cases against Kensington and Chelsea were withdrawn and one claim against Southwark was also withdrawn.

The judge said he hoped the settlement would bring ‘a measure of closure’ for the claimants and that they would be able to move on and rebuild their lives.