Beck child sex abuse duo win pounds 225,000 award

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The Independent Online
WILL BENNETT

Two victims of Frank Beck, the social worker jailed for child abuse, were awarded a total of pounds 225,000 damages yesterday,paving the way for a flood of similar claims running into millions of pounds.

Jennifer Lesiakowski, 36, will receive damages of pounds 145,000 from Leicestershire County Council, while Debra Barry, 31, was awarded pounds 80,000 at the High Court in Nottingham. More than 30 similar actions are pending against the authority, which was criticised in a independent report for running a chaotic social services department and lacking a child care strategy and firm leadership.

Beck was sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment in 1991 after a court was told that he had sexually abused more than 100 children during 13 years in charge of three council run children's homes.

The former royal marine died of a heart attack aged 52 in prison in 1994. At the time he was preparing an appeal against conviction and sentence on 17 charges of rape, sexual abuse and assault.

Miss Lesiakowski and Miss Barry were among seven victims who sued the council but the other five reached out of court settlements. The insurers are Municipal Mutual, which last week forced Clwyd County Council to suppress a report into child abuse by threatening to cancel cover against claims from victims.

Miss Lesiakowski, who will receive pounds 80,000 for pain and suffering, pounds 40,000 for loss of earnings and pounds 25,000 to pay for therapy, transferred to a children's home run by Beck when she was 15. She was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Beck and his staff and has since had a drink and drugs problem and suffers from flashbacks of Beck.

Mr Justice Potts said yesterday that she had suffered "torture" at the home and added: "Whilst the defendants did not rape the plaintiff, their negligence permitted Beck to do so."

Miss Lesiakowski later criticised the size of her award and said she hoped to appeal. "I am angry. From the age of 15 they have taken away my adolescence, and they seem to have taken away my future, too."

Miss Barry went to the same home at the age of 15 after problems at home. Staff gave her baby bottles, a toy to carry and read her children's stories as part of what Beck called "regression therapy". This involved returning disturbed teenagers to a childhood state and provided him with a cover for abuse.

Once, after running away, she was stripped and left in a room for six weeks. She suffers from depression, a dislike of physical contact, flashbacks and a tendency to revert to baby-talk. Miss Barry said she was happy with the outcome. "It has been hell for the last five years for me and my family."

Billhar Singh, the women's solicitor, said: "This award recognises what the plaintiffs have suffered."

A county council spokesman said it hoped the outstanding cases could be quickly resolved.

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