Published: 00:00, 21 March 2016
| Updated: 09:18, 21 March 2016
Former residents of a Gravesend children’s home are pursuing legal action against the Church of England for allegedly covering up years of drug abuse.
A claim is being prepared by lawyers for Teresa Cooper, 48, a campaigner who says she was forcibly tranquilised at Kendall House between 1981 and 1984.
The mother-of-three hopes the claim can help give a voice to those who are said to have fallen ill as a result of their treatment at the home, as well as their children and grandchildren, many of whom suffered birth defects.
“I am taking legal action for the children and grandchildren and any further generations that may be affected, because we need to find out how far this goes and protect children in care from the misuse of drugs,” she said.
“The government needs to monitor the drugging of children in care and change the medical consent form that is used to allow social services to drug these children.”
A review into the allegations was commissioned by Bishop of Rochester James Langstaff in January 2015 but only began inviting former residents to contribute last month.
The Kendall House Review panel is being chaired by Sue Proctor, who led the major independent investigation into matters relating to Jimmy Savile.
She is joined by Samantha Cohen, a part time judge specialising in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse and child cruelty, and retired detective superintendent Ray Galloway, who was the director of the independent investigation into the activities of Savile.
Ms Cooper has accused the church of keeping her in the dark over the review, insisting that she was not asked to provide evidence until it was formally opened in February.
“We only found out about the review and the panel through the media,” she said.
“The Church of England has withheld information and has done nothing to help me and nothing to support me.
“Now we are taking legal action, the church might actually take us seriously.”
“The Church of England has withheld information and has done nothing to help me and nothing to support me." - Teresa Cooper.
The claim against the church is being prepared by Madeline Seibert, a medical negligence partner at Essex law firm Attwaters Jameson Hill.
If successful, it could secure damages for up to 25 children who suffered as a result of Kendall House experiments.
She told The Sunday Times: “These are children who have water on the brain, who have cleft palates, who have been bullied at school, who need medical care.
“We are looking at the impact of the misuse of psychotropic drugs and whether there is any effect on a young woman’s eggs, which may go on to cause birth defects and other abnormalities in their offspring.”
Ms Cooper’s daughter Sarah, 23, was among those born with a cleft palate. Her two sons and grandchild also have serious health issues.
She previously received a substantial out of court settlement for the abuse she suffered from the church in 2010.
“Taking legal action against the church is the only thing we can do,” said Ms Cooper.
“We need to give these girls a voice.”
A spokesman for the Bishop of Rochester said: “If anybody thinks they have evidence that they have suffered in any way, then they should take legal advice and seek to bring a claim with the supporting evidence.
“That’s the proper channel for this to be looked into.”
Kendall House was opened in the 1920s as a home for young girls and operated under control from the Church of England dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury, with residents sent to stay by the local authority. It closed in 1986.