22 December, 2015
ABC v West Heath 2000 Ltd & Whillock  EWHC 2687 (QB
A Claimant has been awarded £25,000 by the High Court for the psychological harm caused to her by being encouraged to send explicit, sexual text messages and images of herself to the Vice-Principal and Child Protection Officer at a Special Educational Needs School that she attended in Kent.
The Vice Principal began sending inappropriately intimate emails to the Claimant in 2007 and, by 2009, was calling her late at night when she was in bed. The Claimant's home life was of concern, and in 2009 she was placed on the Child Protection Register under the categories of emotional and physical abuse. She was also known to suffer from severe epilepsy and behavioural problems.
In early 2010, the Claimant's mobile phone was found by another member of staff, who discovered some 18 sexually explicit text messages and 20 indecent photographs sent by the Claimant to the teacher. As a result of this discovery, the Claimant took an overdose.
The Claimant's medical experts agreed that the Claimant turned for help to a man who exploited her vulnerability and breached the boundaries of an appropriate teacher-student relationship. She sued the Vice Principal for damages for personal injuries caused by sexual assault, rape, grooming and sexting.
It was found that the three elements of the tort of intentional infliction of harm under Wilkinson v Downton (conduct, mental, and consequence) were made out by the Vice Principal; firstly emotionally manipulating the Claimant and encouraging her to send indecent images of herself to him, then engaging with her in sexual banter in text messages. These were held to be actions whose consequences or potential consequences were so obvious that the teacher cannot realistically say that they were unintended (Rhodes).
The Court awarded damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity at £35,000, which included compensation for the sexual assaults.
It would seem that grooming of itself, and the emotional manipulation involved therein is capable of attracting civil damages, even absent actual physical abuse. In grooming cases where there is insufficient evidence to establish the taking place of sexual assaults or rape therefore, a Claimant may still be entitled to damages for the psychological trauma of grooming alone, by "sexting" or otherwise, provided evidence of this conduct is found.
If you have any queries about anything you have read in this blog, or would like to discuss claims regarding grooming, CSE or abuse with a member of the team, please contact Dan Crayford on 01254 222451 or at Daniel.Crayford@forbessolicitors.co.uk.