'Bullied girl had nightmares': Test used on Holocaust victims showed damage to student's confidence, court told

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN who is claiming damages for the effects of bullying at school was given a test used on survivors of the Holocaust, a court was told yesterday.

Dr Morgan O'Connell, a trauma expert, said he found that Becky Walker, 20, had lost her self-confidence as a result of her experiences.

Miss Walker, a law student who has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth, claims she was hounded out of the steel band at Bolsover School, Derbyshire, by three female pupils who campaigned against her for more than a year. She is the first person in Britain to take a local authority to court over alleged bullying and is suing Derbyshire County Council, claiming that teachers failed to stop the snide remarks, stares and cruel comments.

Dr O'Connell, who has advised survivors of the Hillsborough and Zeebrugge disasters, told Nottingham County Court that he gave Miss Walker three questionnaires and a scale devised after the Holocaust for people who had been exposed to trauma.

'Miss Walker scored 38 out of 75. She tried to avoid reminders of her experiences as a way of trying not to get upset.

'Up to the time of her joining the band she was a happy committed girl, progressing well, notwithstanding her cerebral palsy. I was impressed by the way she overcame her severe handicap,' he said.

'But she then had a series of experiences and lost confidence in her ability to function in society. She became tearful and experienced nightmares. She became less outgoing and almost retreated within herself,' Dr O'Connell told the court. 'In my opinion Miss Walker had undergone a change in her personality and had undergone mood swings and became less confident in herself.' He diagnosed significant adjustment reaction - 'a recognised psychiatric condition'.

Dr O'Connell added: 'She described how the girls made snide remarks, how they found her presence in the band embarrassing . . .

'It is like a drip of water and eventually the pint-pot fills up and spills over.'

The hearing was adjourned until today.