Suffolk

Stowmarket Oakwood School abuse claims number 90 plus

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Media captionOne of the former pupils said one teacher smashed his head against a wall

The number of former pupils who allege they were abused at a Suffolk boarding school has reached more than 90.

Pupils from Oakwood School, Stowmarket, claim they were mistreated by staff and a court case for compensation has opened.

The council-run school for boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties was open from 1974 until 1999.

Suffolk County Council was initially given a month to respond to claims but this period was extended by lawyers.

The civil compensation case has been registered at Cambridge County Court by Andrew Grove Solicitors, representing the former pupils.

Lawyers for the former pupils estimate the claims for physical, emotional and sexual abuse by some of the staff could run to £5m.

In July, when the case opened, the number of former pupils taking action was 70.

The case rests on the conviction of Oakwood teacher Keith Hatton who was jailed for three years in 1987 after admitting nine sexual assaults against pupils, the solicitors said.

Seven claimants now say they were abused by Hatton, who has since died.

Nineteen other claimants make allegations of sexual abuse against another former member of staff.

Education 'suffered'

Most claimants make allegations of an oppressive and violent regime with heavy handed discipline, excessive corporal punishment and constant belittlement and physical assault.

Kathy Yates, of Andrew Grove Solicitors, said: "The regime at the school appeared to be designed to crush and intimidate the children, many of whom were already disadvantaged.

"In such an atmosphere their education suffered as well as their well being and general development. Many are left with long lasting psychological damage."

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: "The parties involved have agreed an extension to the period within which Suffolk County Council must file its response to the civil claim brought by former pupils at Oakwood School.

"This is to allow for full and proper consideration of the claim. In the meantime, the separate police investigation continues.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the particulars of the allegations during a police investigation.

"We would however urge people who feel they have any relevant information to contact police to help with their inquiries."

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