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Abuse lawyer welcomes sentence for former Berrow Wood School ‘housefather’

A former "housefather" at Berrow Wood School in Worcestershire was jailed for 27 years last week for abusing children with learning difficulties between 1966 and 1974.

Posted on 09 October 2023

Keith Figes, 73, was sentenced on Tuesday, 3rd October 2023 at Worcester Crown Court for the attacks at the former School in Pendock, near Malvern. The school housed boys aged 10 to 18. 

Figes was entrusted with the care and welfare of the children, instead, the court heard that he would prey on the youngsters at night and invite them into his bedroom where the abuse would get progressively worse.

A warrant was issued for the arrest of co-accused Maurice Lambell, who failed to turn up for sentencing at Worcester Crown Court. Lambell, 69, was found guilty of abusing boys in his care.

Despite a greater awareness of the risk of child sexual abuse in schools and sports clubs, there is still no legal duty upon staff members to report suspicions of abuse to the authorities. Campaigners and lawyers for abuse victims have long been calling for the introduction of a mandatory reporting law that would make it illegal for teachers, social workers and other relevant professionals not to report abuse. 

Leigh Day partner Alison Millar, head of the abuse team, said:

“I was really saddened to hear of the experiences of survivors of what was clearly horrendous abuse at Berrow Wood. These were vulnerable children who were separated from their families and homes and sent to this school as a specialist provision; they should have been kept safe but instead the victim impact reports read out in court detailed the brutality and sexual assaults the children experienced, and from which they could not escape. 

“I note the cowardly failure of the co-accused, Maurice Lambell, to turn up for his sentencing; I hope that he is arrested soon so that he can be sentenced appropriately.”

Despite a greater awareness of the risk of child sexual abuse in schools and sports clubs, there is still no legal duty upon staff members to report suspicions of abuse to the authorities. Campaigners and lawyers for abuse victims have long been calling for the introduction of a mandatory reporting law that would make it illegal for teachers, social workers and other relevant professionals not to report abuse.

Members of the Abuse Claims team at Leigh Day have considerable experience of claims for survivors of boarding school abuse including at Swaylands School, Royal Alexandra & Albert School and various prep schools.

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Alison Millar
Abuse claims Human rights

Alison Millar

Alison Millar works in the human rights department at Leigh Day, where she is the head of abuse claims

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