Re-examine school abuse, says judge

A JUDGE has called for police to re-investigate abuse at a school, including why a 14-year-old Ramsey boy was found hanging in his bedroom. Earlier this year, the name of Gavin Adamson, who died in 1991, was added to the list of 123 former pupils of Ellin

A JUDGE has called for police to re-investigate abuse at a school, including why a 14-year-old Ramsey boy was found hanging in his bedroom.

Earlier this year, the name of Gavin Adamson, who died in 1991, was added to the list of 123 former pupils of Ellingdon School who are seeking damages from Cambridgeshire County Council.

The allegations against the Peterborough school include physical and sexual abuse and rape. The claims relate to the whole of the school's existence from 1981 until it was closed in 1998.

The costs of bringing the case for the claimants so far are estimated at £1.7million.

Last week at the county court in Cambridge, Judge Robert Blomfield called for a new police inquiry into the alleged abuses at the school. The 123 have complained extreme physical suffering and deprivation, and violence by staff against pupils including sexual abuse and rape.

The county court was told that, some 15 years on, many of the ex-pupils, who were sent to the school from across Cambridgeshire, suffer from long term physical injuries and depression.

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The judge also heard that some children sent to Ellingdon were already suffering from a disrupted family life. Others had learning difficulties. Some had just been rebellious at school.

One of the claimants is Susan Adamson from Ramsey Forty Foot, whose son Gavin was found unconscious on December 20, 1991. His life support machine was turned off on Christmas Eve that year. Gavin had been a weekly border at the school.

On Wednesday, five of the accused staff were named in court and the judge ordered that their personnel and disciplinary files be given to the claimants' solicitors, Andrew Grove and Co.

The civil action seeking compensation now dates back five-and-a-half years. An added complication for those still suing is that they must now wait for a House of Lords judgement, due in November. The Lords - the highest court in the land - will rule on the Limitation Act 1980. This limits the time in which an alleged victim can sue. Currently, this is up to six years from when the claimant realises the damage - or the cause of the damage - done to them.

The law lords will re-examine a case known as Young v The Catholic Care Society.

Speaking for the current claimants on Wednesday, barrister Graham Goodwill argued that Judge Blomfield could exercise discretion and proceed with the case, preventing more months of waiting.

However, Judge Blomfield ruled that the Lords' decision could mean that his ruling could be overturned on appeal, so it was safer to wait. In the meantime, he ordered that the claimants be seen by a panel of six psychiatrists agreed on by both parties and that the defendants, Cambridgeshire County Council, prepare their defence both on the general allegations and the particular claims made by the 123 individuals.

The case is due to return to court on Friday, May 2.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: "Officers are aware of allegations surrounding conduct at a school in Peterborough which has now closed down.

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