In Brief

Payout for six-year-old schoolgirl sexually assaulted by fellow pupils

Local authority awards compensation settlement to victim’s family over failure to protect child

The parents of a six-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by two boys at her school on an almost daily basis have won a five-figure compensation settlement from their local council.

The ruling is understood to mark the first time that the High Court has approved a sexual assault settlement involving a primary school, says the BBC. The parents of the victim, referred to by the pseudonym Bella in court, say they hope it will set a precedent.

“We had a broken little girl who had been seriously sexually assaulted repeatedly over a number of weeks in school, feeling unsafe in school and she had nothing,” said the mother.

The family argued in court that the school had failed to properly train its staff to recognise the warning signs of abuse.

One staff member found the girl with her underwear and tights partially removed, with one of the boys behind her, but did not escalate the incident internally or inform the parents, according to The Guardian.

 The young victim only disclosed the abuse to her mother when she could no longer sit down because of genital pain. She has since had nightmares, become extremely anxious and is afraid of leaving her home.

Yet the family had to pay for private counselling for their daughter after being told she did not meet the criteria for assessment as a child in need.

The boys have since left the school but were not prosecuted. The local authority has not admitted any liability but has agreed to pay the settlement.

Welcoming the ruling, the girl’s mother said: “Although the litigation has not been easy, we hope that when she is older it will help her understand that there was some accountability for what happened to her.”

She continued: “We hope that our daughter’s case will highlight the need for even basic support and guidance for children and young people who are raped and sexually assaulted in schools, as well as greater training for teachers and school staff to prevent assaults happening in the first place.”

Of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, 15 told the BBC that they had recorded a total of 593 allegations of sex offences on school premises last year involving under-18-year-olds as both perpetrator and victim. These included 71 allegations of rape. 

Rachel Krys, from the End Violence Against Women Coalition, says that schools need to do more to protect the safety of their pupils.

“Girls have a right to be safe in school and parents rightly expect that policies are in place and staff are trained to recognise when a girl is being sexually assaulted,” she said.

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