Published: 00:01, 14 January 2017
The Church of England might have to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages and legal fees as a result of historic child abuse at a home for young girls.
Former residents of Kendall House in Pelham Road, Gravesend have been seeking out solicitors since the results of an independent investigation into its “harrowing” regime were published in a review last summer.
The results of a further review were released just before Christmas and “gratitude” payouts of £1,000 have already been made to the more than 20 women who gave evidence, but many of them are still suing the church for what happened to them.
Samantha Robson, of Robsonshaw Solicitors, has been bringing claims against the church over Kendall House since 2011, with six more victims coming forward since the review was published.
“Closure is very important to these women who finally want recognition for their mistreatment when they were vulnerable children,” she said.
“Some of these victims have suffered significant health issues as a consequence of their treatment at Kendall House. Often claimants will need to be examined by a specialist psychiatrist to provide evidence on mental health issues.
“In other instances, claimants have suffered conditions such as fibromyalgia (a long-term condition causing pain all over the body), which may have been affected by the drugs administered at the children’s home.”
The church is insured for such cases and has already settled a number of them, with Mrs Robson securing a five-figure award of compensation for a woman who lived at Kendall House in the 1980s.
Mrs Robson, who has been specialising in sexual abuse claims for 16 years, said the church was taking a “positive” approach to the cases and did not want to prolong the victims’ suffering.
She added that the church would likely end up paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages and legal fees.
Campaigner Teresa Cooper, who last month described the £1,000 gratitude payments as “an insult”, is one of those pursuing action over birth defects suffered by the children and grandchildren of former Kendall House residents.
Ms Cooper’s daughter Sarah was born with a cleft palate and her two sons and grandchild also have serious health issues, which Ms Cooper believes are as a result of the drugs she was given at the Gravesend home.
Her solicitor, Madeline Seibert, of Attwaters Jameson Hill, said last year: “The women residents of Kendall House need closure and justice in relation to these tragic events.”
Back in 2010, the church agreed an out-of-court settlement with Ms Cooper to the tune of more £50,000 but did not accept liability for the abuse until the review was published last summer.
She contributed to the second review and the panel, chaired by Dr Sue Proctor, who led the investigation into disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile, thanked her for her efforts.
“Teresa has worked relentlessly to try to make the church understand, accept and act in response to her concerns about the abusive practices at Kendall House,” they said.
“Through lobbying, researching, and detailed analysis, she has supported many other former residents to seek affirmation of their experiences, as well as working on her own process of recovery.
“We would like to thank Teresa Cooper for all her efforts, and her struggles in seeking the truth about Kendall House.”
More by this authorTom Acres