Berrow Wood Approved School

Berrow Wood Approved School, Gloucestershire

Abused pupil’s damages claim blocked

The case was heard at the High Court in London

A man who suffered abuse at the hands of teachers has been told by a judge that he cannot sue the education secretary or his local authority for damages.

Michael Gallagher, 27, was seeking hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages for treatment which he claims has left him psychologically damaged and unable to earn a proper living.

But at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Jackson ruled that only Mr Gallagher’s claim against the now defunct Berrow Wood School, near Worcester, can go ahead.

His lawyers will now have to await the outcome of a hearing next month involving the school and its insurers, Sun Alliance, which is saying the school’s policies are not valid for claims involving violence by teachers.

If Sun Alliance wins the action, Mr Gallagher will not be able to pursue his claim against the school, which is in receivership.

Robert Sherman, representing Mr Gallagher, told the judge during the six-day hearing that the case arose out of “the systematic physical and emotional abuse of pupils” who had been placed by local authorities at the independent school – which catered for for children with special behavioural difficulties.

Assault and cruelty

Mr Gallagher was a pupil at the school from 1984 to 1987 and although complaints were made to Hereford and Worcester County Council, no action was taken until police made an investigation in 1991.

Six teachers at the school received various jail terms for offences including assault and cruelty.

The court was told that Mr Gallagher was sent to Berrow Wood when he was 16 and, during his three and a half years at the school, was violently assaulted by Alan Gorton, the school’s owner and principal, headmaster Ronald Morris and head of care Philip Gray.

Since leaving school, Mr Gallagher had had a series of jobs and served a prison sentence for robbery.

He told the judge in evidence that he did not think about making a claim against the school until he gave evidence during the police investigation into the school in 1991.

Mr Gallagher said he was not told by lawyers that he could sue the local education authority or the Department for Education until years later.

But the judge ruled that both had no duty of care to Mr Gallagher personally and that his claim against them was too late to be valid in law.

However, he added that Mr Gallagher could go ahead with his claim against the school – which could arguably be held liable for his treatment by the teachers.

‘No rights’

Mr Gallagher, who lives in south London, said in a statement after the hearing: “Whilst I was at the school and suffering under the regime of violence I complained and said I have rights. I was told by the principal of the school that `The only rights you have here are to eat and breathe’.

“The difficulty I have with the decision today is, yet again, I am being told by the system of justice that I have no rights. In particular, no rights against the local authority and Department of Education who knew that the school was assaulting pupils.

“I cannot accept that it is in the interest of public policy that they had no duty to take any action. It might be in the interest of the legal system to prevent claims of this nature.

“Can it really be said by the judge alone that it is in the public interest that such public bodies who know of the abuse and have the power to prevent it are not obliged to prevent it?”

Mr Gallagher’s solicitor, Chris Whiteley, said: “We are deeply disturbed by this decision and will be exploring avenues of appeal either to the Court of Appeal or the European Court of Human Rights.

“It cannot be right that a local authority owes one duty to those children who it places in their own schools and a different duty to those it places in independent schools.”

BBC News 09/02/99

152 responses to “Berrow Wood Approved School

  1. John Griffiths

    Education was tops rest a nightmare 😴 😪

  2. John Griffiths

    I was abused both physically mentally & sexual between 72-76 & still have nightmares

  3. Leroy

    I’m leroy walker I went to that school and was abused fucking hate them all

  4. aleccox

    Hi Lee I do not Know why Barry haistings did wot he did but i want to see if I can find out why by going to see him. then I will put it on here or if you phone me on 07709995373 we could meet and talk. I hope we talk soon Alec Cox 34 from Camberley

  5. Alec cox

    Hi Darren I have read whot you have said lets meet where you want I have a car ring me on 07709995373 I hope we speak soon Alec Cox 34 from Camberley

  6. If you read my complaint to Surrey County Council on the prior page I was complaining about the fact Surrey County Council did not follow up on the 3 complaints made to them about Berrow Wood. 2 months later and about 10 emails and 3 missed deadlines I got this insult.
    Telephone: 01483 519095
    Customer Relations Team
    Quadrant Court
    Guildford Road
    GU22 7QQ
    19th November 2019

    Dear Mr Ingall

    I was very sorry to read of your history when Jessica Brooke, Complaints Manager, your
    correspondence with me. As the Assistant Director of Quality Relationships, it falls to me to formally respond on behalf of the Council.

    It is clear to me from the correspondence you have sent, that you have taken the time and trouble to share a very poor experience with us that stems from your childhood and to some degree extends into the present day.

    I have no common frame of reference to even begin to understand what you have been through and am so very sorry to read of the wider impact that this had on you. I can only imagine the impact that the recent incidents involving your son will no doubt have had on you given your own difficult experience as a child.

    I know that both Caroline Phillips and Jessica Brooke in Customer Relations have made you aware that we did manage to locate a single file in your other name. Caroline has shared that you have indicated that you have no interest in accessing the limited records we hold about you and that all you are seeking is an acknowledgment and apology for the part that Surrey County Council played in your childhood specifically around the decisions in regard to where and with whom you lived and the abuse that you experienced during that time.

    From the information held in the file we have located, it appears that the decision to place you in a home away from your family was not one reached by Surrey Children‘s Services (or social care as such). The records held point to a decision being reached by colleagues in Health Services; that said
    this is based on the content of a single letter within the file. This does not detract from the poor experience you shared with us or indeed the impact that this had on you, irrespective of whose decision this was.

    lam very sorry as I appreciate that this is not the response you were hoping for given everything you experienced at the time. I suspect that you may have been hoping that with the assistance of the Council you would be able to gain some insight into our involvement in your childhood and in particular in relation to the decisions reached about your care arrangements. Sadly, this is not something that I have been able to achieve for you. Nonetheless I do acknowledge what you have shared with us and in the event that further documentation casts a different light on who the responsible decision making authority was I will be happy to review your request.

    Yours sincerely,

    Luke Entwistle
    Assistant Director

    Quality Relationships

    My reply
    Well Luke this is far from the response I expected from Surrey county council. It seems to be to be an exercise in how to insult a parent, sidestep a complaint and dare I say really take the micky out of a complainant. Kind of similar to the response I might have expected to receive if I was writing to Rowan Atkinson playing Mr Bean only its not funny.

    I was placed into Berrow Wood School by the authorities (Surrey County Council)
    The authorities (surrey County Council) received 3 letters of complaint from my parents about the school.
    The authorities (surrey County Council) did not follow up on these complaints to the point I was even interviewed when I was a child.
    I was seriously damaged as a result of my spending time in this school following serious abuse where I found myself a small 15 year old child underneath a paedophile.
    Years later the memory came back to haunt me following issues with my son after he started at George Abbot School and their making a false child abuse allegation against me when they ran away with the wrong idea and point blank refused to make a phone call for my son to somebody who knew what he was doing.
    I wrote to the authorities (surrey county council) the chief of legal services and asked for a simple apology.
    They passed me to your department and what do you say? Don’t blame us blame another department? Kind of sums up Surrey County Council, George abbot school and the social workers!
    Not our job if we can pass it off to somebody else, blame somebody else, sidestep the complaint or find a document somewhere in our files that shows somebody else might have been involved. That said we have conveniently lost any paperwork that might show us in a bad light. Even when a complainant puts it all under our nose (the paperwork) that is we will just pretend like it does not exist.

    My complaint is with the authorities (Surrey County Council) maybe not your department but unless I am very much mistaken your colleagues in health services are part of Surrey County Council? The organisation to whom I sent my complaint!

    Well so be it, ill publish your response on my website, it won’t get me anywhere but it will make me feel good. Maybe ill have it printed on the back of some of my flyers and go and post them door to door in Guildford?

    In the mean time I’ll park my car with its poster in prominent placed in Guildford.

    Maybe somebody will be good enough to pass that idea passed Joan Killian?

    Darren Ingall

  7. Alec Cox

    Hi Darren Warnett Alec Cox 34 from Camberley Barry Haistings must have turned bad when I left I was at the school when you was there but as i said before on here I Was on his landing and he never touched me and after I left the School We met in Camberley and went away together for a week and we went out in the school mini bus on our own to tewkesbury for the doctors or dentists and he never touched me. We parted as friends so I want to find out whot prison he is in. write to him I hope he wtites back to me I will go and see him find out why he did whot he did and i put it on here. Darren give me a call on 07709995373 I hope we speak soon.

  8. Alec cox

    Hi Lee I see whot you are saying but as me and him parted as friends the last time we saw each other. I will find out whot prison he is in write to him if he wtites back I will go and see him find out why he did it an put it on here for every one to read. Lee give me a ring on 07709995373 And may be we can meet .I hope we can speak soon. Alec 34.

    • Lee

      He abused many children in berrow Wood and in many ways,I’m not interested in why he did it,the fact is he did it and abused his position in the school just like many other staff members.
      The pedo Hastings has no remorse for what he did so why even give him the time of day,sounds like you almost feel sad for him he did not just turn bad he was allways bad,he was never your friend,ask your self this why would a late 30s man if you can call him that want to hang out for a week with a 16 year old kid

  9. Lee

    Why the hell would you want to visit him in prison are you crazy,
    The only reason he never abused you is for 3 reasons he was grooming you or you was not his type or 2 old
    The only visit hastings needs in prison is from a shrink to have his brain rewired.
    I hope he rots in hell in prison or dies in there ,that way he will never harm a child again.

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