Children who suffer sexual abuse are entitled both to see their tormentors punished by the criminal law and to damages. In a case on point, a young woman who was violently preyed upon by a charity employee received a six-figure award.
When in her mid-teens, the girl, who suffers from a number of serious physical and learning disabilities, regularly attended an adventure playground operated by a charity. Over a period of months, a man who worked there subjected her to sexual abuse of the most serious kind. He would beat her if she resisted his demands.
After she launched proceedings, the charity disputed allegations that it had breached the safeguarding duties it owed her. It admitted, however, that it bore vicarious liability for the man's criminal acts. Subject to High Court approval, a £150,000 settlement of her claim was negotiated.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that, following a criminal trial, the man was convicted of offences of sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice. He was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment. The girl had exhibited enormous courage in testifying against him.
Formerly a bubbly and popular individual, her condition has deteriorated markedly since the abuse and she requires a great deal more care, of which her family bears the brunt. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she is prey to emotional volatility, depression and low self-esteem. Despite the terrible wrong that had been done to her, she continues to enjoy a number of hobbies and activities.
Approving the prudent settlement, the Court noted that, as an intensely vulnerable child, the playground should have been a safe environment for her. No amount of compensation could turn the clock back and money merely served as a proxy for the quantification of the pain, suffering, heartbreak and anxiety that she and devoted members of her family continue to experience constantly.