Matthew Johnson of Kirby Stephen, Cumbria jailed

Graham Charles Webb from New Brighton jailed 

Henry Christie of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire jailed

August 2001

Abuse victims told of deadline

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VICTIMS of physical or sexual abuse at a school for children with special needs in Wirral are being urged to come forward to join a group litigation action.

A group of 10 claimants has already issued legal proceedings relating to claims for severe physical and sexual abuse from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s at West Kirby Residential School in Meols Drive.

The abuse was carried out by three men, who all received prison sentences for the offences carried out while they were employed at the home.

The Cheshire-based solicitors’ firm dealing with the action, Abney Garsden McDonald, says anyone who wants to make a claim for compensation has until November 5 to start court proceedings, according to a cut-off order approved by the Lord Chief Justice.

Co-ordinating solicitor Paul Durkin said the action was being brought against the managers of the home for negligence, including failure to respond to complaints and bad working practices.

He said: “There may be others who have been physically or sexually abused who haven’t come forward – because they do not know they can make a claim or haven’t got the confidence.

“It is important people come forward as they will not be able to make a claim for compensation after the cut-off date.”

More than 300 people were interviewed during the police investigation into the West Kirby school, part of the Operation Care inquiry into claims of alleged abuse at children’s homes in the North West.

Three men subsequently received jail sentences at Liverpool Crown Court for their part in the physical and sexual abuse at the residential school.

Former head of care Graham Charles Webb, 41, from Rakersfield Road, New Brighton, was jailed for seven years in July 1997 for abusing boys at the school and at camps he helped organise.

Webb, who also worked for a well known Christian youth movement, admitted abusing 20 children over a period of almost 20 years.

Henry Christie, of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, was jailed for two years in 1998 for 13 counts of sexual assault on three girls and two boys at the West Kirby school between 1973 and 1981.

Christie, aged 81, a former house parent at the school, carried out his assaults on the children – aged between eight and 15 – at locations including his own home, a cinema and the local swimming baths. (click this for more on Christie on this link)

Matthew Johnson, 40, was jailed for four-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to 13 charges of indecent assault on boys and two charges of abduction.

The former house parent, of Kirby Stephen, Cumbria, committed the offences on five pupils at the residential school and three boy scouts who were in his care when he was a scout master. (click this for more on Johnson)

In a statement, chairman of governors John Wylie said: “The school is highly sympathetic to the sensitive nature of these claims, in some cases dating back to the 1970s.

“For legal reasons we are unable to comment further, but would however point out that they have no bearing on the current day running of the school, now recognised as one of the most successful special educational needs establishments in the country.”