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Abuse claim - Mark's story

Mark brought a civil claim against the Methodist Independent Schools Trust after suffering sexual abuse at Shebbear College, Devon

Posted on 21 March 2022

Settlement of claim for abuse in a residential school

Our client, whom we are calling Mark*, brought a civil claim against the Methodist Independent Schools Trust (MIST) arising out of sexual abuse he had experienced at Shebbear College in Beaworthy, Devon, whilst a pupil there in the early 1980s.

This civil claim followed a criminal prosecution of the perpetrator, Anthony Bennett, who is currently serving a sentence of 19 years’ imprisonment for serious sexual offences against a number of former pupils of the School.

The claim settled for a six-figure sum of compensation, reflecting both the severity of the sexual abuse to which Mark was subjected and the impact that it had on his mental health, life, work and relationships subsequently.

What our clients say

I can’t thank Leigh Day enough for their calm professional approach, I really felt respected, believed and like I was dealing with an organisation that cared. Thank you.

Mark, abuse client

Alison Millar, the conducting solicitor, said:

“Mark described how Bennett had gained his trust, offering him an escape from a harsh boarding school environment where he was lonely and unhappy and experiencing some bullying. Mark was therefore a vulnerable child whom Bennett deliberately targeted for his own despicable purposes.

Mark bravely tried to tell members of staff and others about what Bennett was doing, but he was dismissed – one member of staff told him off for “making up stories” – and his disclosures led to him being targeted for further bullying by peers.

He left the school a very unhappy young person and the abuse had a profound impact on his life for many years subsequently. It is only in later middle age that he has started to turn his life around and get back on to the track he would have been on and he is still working through the emotional legacy of what happened.

I hope this settlement will help him on his journey towards healing. MIST has also offered him an individual apology. I am very pleased that we have concluded this case for Mark with this acknowledgement by MIST of the serious wrongdoing which he should never have experienced.”

Mark said:

“Having lived with the trauma of abuse for most of my adult life I took the step of pursuing the perpetrator that had committed sexual crimes against me as a child. The decision only came about after reading about another case that occurred at the boarding school which I had attended. I was dubious as it was an historical case and had been told may be difficult to pursue.

“While the first step was a little intimidating as it involved contacting the police and giving a statement, I now wish I had reported it sooner.

“It was from the summary of the previous case I first saw the name Leigh Day solicitors who were acting on behalf of the victims.

“I contacted Leigh Day and was directed to Alison Millar who expertly guided me through the initial steps of my difficult journey. Alison was exceptionally sympathetic but was also very candid in her approach to my case, which helped me immensely.

“In fact Alison and the team at Leigh Day had an emphatic but very realistic approach as to how they handled my case. They never promised the world, just guided me through a difficult process with excellent advice that has been honed over years of legal experience in this field. ”

*Not his real name