The parents of a schoolgirl, 6, who was repeatedly sexually assaulted in the playground by fellow pupils have won compensation in a landmark legal case. The Telegraph reports.
A local authority paid the family of the victim, given the pseudonym Bella, a five-figure sum after school staff allegedly failed to act on signs she was being abused.
The settlement reached, in which the council did not accept liability, was approved by the High Court in what is believed to be the first case of its kind.
The primary school pupil was targeted on an almost daily basis during a six-week period between October and November 2015, law firm Leigh Day, representing the family, said.
Two of her male classmates, also aged 6, had been carrying out the assaults with escalating degrees of severity – and threatened Bella with violence if she told anyone.
Lawyers representing the family said Ella’s parents immediately went to the school, leading the boys to eventually admit their roles.However, concerns about the school’s safeguarding procedures quickly began to surface.
It emerged that two members of staff witnessed the boys display inappropriate sexual behaviour towards Bella, including one distressing episode when she was seen with her clothing partly removed and one boy standing behind her, Leigh Day said.
In a further troubling development, Bella was forced to sit face-to-face with one of her tormentors in a meeting organised by staff on the day the allegations came to light. This was done without the knowledge or consent of her parents, her lawyers said.
The legal grey area of children suffering sexual harm at their peers hands has since been highlighted by Bella’s parents to MPs, including the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
Bella’s mother Anna 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; that it should never have happened and that she was badly let down by those who were supposed to safeguard her while she was at school.”
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