County Durham victim of teacher sex abuser secures payout

A WOMAN who was sexually abused by a music teacher as a teenager has won a five-figure payout from the council which operated the school.

The County Durham woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was abused by the man in the early 1990s when she was under the age of 16.

The teacher, who taught at a secondary school in the county, was jailed after he admitted sexual offences against the then-pupil both on school grounds and at the home he shared with his wife.

The assaults have had a lasting impact on the woman. She has suffered depression, made a number of suicide attempts, her marriage broke down and she has struggled to keep a job.

More than 25 years later, she instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who recently secured her a five-figure settlement from Durham County Council which also sent her a formal apology.

The money will allow the woman, who is now in her 40s, to access the specialist care and therapies she requires to continue with her life as best she can.

The woman said: “He paid me attention and compliments.

“On one occasion he started kissing me and this led to him having sex with me. Following that, such incidents became more frequent – including at school.

“I was only a child and did not fully understand what was happening.

“When it came to light he got very angry and told me I had to say it was all made up.”

She added: “The criminal case was horrendous. When it was all done I just wanted to sweep it under the carpet and never talk about it again.

“When my son was born all of the memories came flooding back and I really struggled. My marriage broke down and I suffered mental health problems.

“My depression has always made it difficult for me to hold down a job.

“Attempting to cope with what I have been through has been incredibly difficult, but I was determined to make sure my voice was heard.

“While I cannot turn back the clock and stop everything that happened to me, I have such a sense of relief now that I finally have some justice for myself. I was also given a written apology from the local authority with regards to the abuse that I suffered, which I feel will help me obtain the closure I need to fully move on.

“There are so many people out there who have been abused as a child. I just hope people can find it within themselves to find help.

“At the time, people gossiped and some even blamed me for the abuse, even though I was a minor.

“This has never been about the money, it is all about justice which I hope others in the same situation will seek.

“I would urge anyone going through something similar to also come forward and not suffer in silence. It takes a lot of bravery to speak up, but for me it was worth it.”

Helen Lynch, head of legal and democratic services at Durham County Council, said: “I can confirm we have reached a financial settlement with an individual who was the victim of historic abuse at a school that was owned and operated by Durham County Council at the time.

“We have also written to the individual concerned and would like to take this opportunity to once again offer our sincerest apologies for the abuse they experienced and the distress it has caused.”

Emma Crowther, an abuse expert at Irwin Mitchell who represented the woman, said: “This is a truly shocking case which demonstrates the significant and lasting impact that abuse can have.

“Our client struggled for decades to attempt to come to terms with what she went through. She has courageously made the decision to come forward in the hope that it will stop others from going through what she has.

“She has endured a horrific ordeal, and while nothing will ever change that, we are pleased that we have been able to help her access the specialist support she requires to try and overcome what happened the best she can.

“It’s vital that other survivors of abuse don’t feel alone. Thankfully attitudes towards abuse have changed in recent years.

“People should feel reassured that their complaints will be dealt with the utmost sensitivity and compassion regardless of how long ago it was that the abuse took place.”

The Northern Echo | Durham