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Former Royal Alexandra and Albert School pupil receives six-figure sexual abuse settlement

A former pupil at a state run boarding school in Surrey has received £540,500 in damages and a formal apology from the school, for the serious and prolonged sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

Posted on 14 November 2019

Jonathan (not his real name), now in his 50s, successfully concluded the legal claim for compensation against the Royal Alexandra and Albert School for the sexual abuse he was subjected to by Philip Batten, a former housemaster at the school.

When he was 11 years old, Jonathan was sent to the school while his parents lived on a British Army base abroad. He was placed in a dormitory in Gloucester House, at the school, where Philip Batten was his housemaster. 

Throughout the five years that Jonathan attended the school, Batten subjected him to repeated sexual assaults. Batten would often take Jonathan from his dormitory during the night in order to sexually abuse him on school grounds. Jonathan remembers feeling too scared to sleep and trying to hide from Batten during the school day. He believes his education suffered as a result. 

Jonathan recalls Batten threatening him that the school would expel him if he ever spoke out about the assaults. Despite this, Jonathan attempted to tell other staff members but does not know if his complaints were ever acted upon.  He left the school when he turned 16. 

Jonathan never spoke about the abuse again until he was contacted in 2013 by Surrey Police as part of an investigation into alleged paedophile activity at the school. Soon after the police investigation began, Jonathan suffered a breakdown of his mental health and had to leave his job. 

In May 2016, Philip Batten was sentenced to 17 years in prison following a conviction for 42 charges of child sexual abuse against former pupils, including Jonathan, between 1975 and 1985. 

When handing down the sentence, Judge Neill Stewart noted that Batten had ‘used and abused’ boys at the school for his own personal gratification, amounting to ‘the most extreme breach of trust’.  

In his victim personal statement, Jonathan described the anguish and mental torment he had experienced at school, and the impact that the abuse had on his life and family relationships. 

Jonathan instructed Alison Millar and Catriona Rubens of Leigh Day solicitors to pursue a legal case against the Royal Alexandra and Albert School.  The School admitted liability for the abuse he suffered. 

Jonathan’s solicitors obtained expert reports from a consultant psychiatrist, an educational psychologist and a specialist employment expert. With this expert evidence, they argued that if he had not suffered sexual abuse, Jonathan would have been able to pursue his career ambitions and earn significantly more throughout his life. They also claimed for serious psychiatric injuries, therapy costs, and care provided by Jonathan's partner.

In September this year, Jonathan accepted an offer of settlement on his case for £540,500, with a formal apology from the school. In its apology, the school acknowledged that the abuse Jonathan suffered was abhorrent and represented a serious breach of trust. 

Jonathan said: 

“First and foremost, I would like to say how much respect I have for the whole team at Leigh Day who have given me support while dealing with all aspects of my civil claim against the school and its insurer. I'm not going to say that it was easy by any means. At times, it was extremely traumatic, but the team at Leigh Day were always there to help me to get local support for my mental health and well-being. Their advice has always been invaluable and spot on, when dealing with the local DHSS, the police and NHS services. The whole team, past and present, Alison, Catriona, Denise and Kate, have always gone beyond the call of duty to be able to answer my questions and dispel any fears or worries I had in the long civil case. I only feel it's right to also mention with proud admiration the support from the Counsel and expert team.

"It is through the team’s very hard work that I have come away from the complications of this civil case feeling so much stronger and empowered to move on with my life by reassessing my worth as a person and my ability to fit in to a productive society. Now I am finally from all the support and help I'm beginning to form closure. The team at Leigh Day have all changed my life and made the future look a lot brighter and it's all due to their support care and dare I say love.”

Jonathan's lawyers, Alison Millar and Catriona Rubens from law firm Leigh Day, said: 

“Jonathan's parents placed him in this boarding school believing that it was in his best interests and that he would be cared for and safe.  However, instead his formative years were overshadowed by sexual abuse that he had no means to escape from.  

“By admitting liability and offering Jonathan a formal apology, the Royal Alexandra and Albert School has recognised that this should never have happened to a child under its care. The damages Jonathan received go some way to reflecting the absolutely devastating impact the abuse has had on his life, and we are hopeful that Jonathan can now begin to rebuild his life and look to the future.”

Leigh Day continues to represent other former pupils of Royal Alexandra and Albert school who were subjected to abuse by staff members, including claims relating to alleged abuse by Allen Meredith.