An abuse case – including rape – relating to a special school has opened proceedings with 115 people making claims Allegations of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, at the former Ellindon Special Needs School in Bretton, Peterborough, have now reached
An abuse case - including rape - relating to a special school has opened proceedings with 115 people making claims
Allegations of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, at the former Ellindon Special Needs School in Bretton, Peterborough, have now reached court - but more victims are still being asked to come forward.
The catchment area for the school includes Ramsey, Huntingdon, St Ives, St Neots and Wisbech. The allegations relate to the whole of the school's existence from 1981 to 1998. It was closed after the suspension of two male teachers in 1997 and five more staff in May 1998.
Claims are being made against Cambridgeshire County Council by ex-pupils at the council-run school - for sums ranging from £5,000 to £50,000.
One girl pupil from Huntingdon, who does not wish to be named, will claim she was raped at the school. She says the perpetrators, two teachers, convinced her mother she was fantasising, so that when she was raped a second time, she did not report it.
She said: "No one believed me. I had a meeting at the school with my mother and we were interviewed by the two teachers who had abused me. They convinced my mother that I had imagined it."
Another pupil says he was punched in the face by a male teacher who knocked out two of his front teeth. Other pupils say they had bones broken by staff and were denied hospital treatment.
A preliminary hearing took place at Cambridge County Court yesterday (Tuesday) to confirm the number of alleged victims.
Andrew Grove, one of the solicitors who represents the claimants, told The Hunts Post that the claim had begun with 30 people but had now grown to 115. They were aged between 10 and 14 at the time of the alleged offences.
Mr Grove said that in November the county had offered to settle with some of the victims.
"But since then there has been silence so we are taking them back to court to get things going. We are ready to go with 60 cases, why should these cases be held up while we are preparing the next 60? One of our claimants has been trying to bring his case now for 10 years."
Part of the claimants' case will be the school's history of poor management. In 1996, there was a police investigation into school finances. An Ofsted report the same year labelled Ellingdon as a failing school. After control of the school passed to Peterborough City Council, it was closed.
Some 112 claimants have each alleged crowpecking - a form of violent discipline consisting of punches with a clenched fist into the middle of a child's head. They say they suffer from headaches, dizziness, short-term memory loss and flashbacks of their experiences at the school. Some claimants allege serious sexual attacks by staff although the majority of claims are for physical abuse only.
It was also alleged that staff who tried to voice their concerns at the time about the ill treatment of pupils have claimed they were victimised by management.
Solicitor Kathy Yates, who represents claimants from Huntingdonshire, said: "The court has ordered that this claim be advertised so that potential claimants have the opportunity to come forward and join the litigation. Legal aid will be available to those who meet the criteria.
"Ellindon School is a major child abuse claim and anyone who was a pupil there is strongly advised to telephone me to discuss the matter. I have spoken to many parents who entrusted their children to Ellindon and feel badly let down. Many have feelings of guilt for having placed their children there. However none could have been aware of the reality of life at Ellindon.
"Compensation will never turn the clock back but it is the only form of redress or justice available to those who suffered."
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said it was too early in the proceedings to comment.
INFORMATION: Contact solicitors Kathy Yates or Andrew Grove on 01223 367133.