Church pays out to woman sedated as child

The Church of England has paid "substantial" damages to a woman who claimed she was heavily sedated during her time at a children's home, it was disclosed today.

Teresa Cooper, 43, accepted the out-of-court settlement from church authorities after alleging that she was abused and restrained with doses of tranquillisers and other drugs.

A BBC investigation last year revealed that some girls who were heavily sedated while living at Church of England-run Kendall House in Gravesend, Kent, in the 1970s and 1980s went on to have children with a range of birth defects.

According to files from Kendall House, which is no longer a children's home, girls were given massive doses of a number of drugs over long periods of time.

Former resident Ms Cooper's three children all have birth defects and she has fought an 18-year campaign to secure justice, she said today.

Her eldest son was born with respiratory difficulties, her second son was born blind and developed learning difficulties, and her daughter was born with a cleft palate and a short lower jaw.

Ms Cooper, who left the home in 1984 at 16, was given medication at least 1,248 times over a 32-month period.

This included three major tranquillisers, drugs to counter side-effects and anti-depressants, including up to 10 times the current recommended dose of Valium.

The Diocese of Rochester said it has not admitted liability but said it hopes Ms Cooper would now be able to move on with her life.

In a statement, it said: "Although Ms Cooper instructed a legal firm, no legal proceedings were issued. In reaching a settlement, no admissions of liability were made.

"It is our fervent hope that the terms of the settlement agreed will assist Teresa Cooper move forward with her life."

Ms Cooper, a writer who lives near Chelmsford, Essex, said today she would like a public apology from the church.

She said: "The settlement is a step in the right direction. The church has worked with me on an equal level, which took a long time to achieve and I'm quite happy with what they have done.

"But I would like them to investigate what happened, what went wrong and to investigate the drugs that were used that saw girls go on to have children with birth defects.

"There are lots of things the church can do and which I believe is their Christian duty to do, and I would also like a public apology at the Synod.

"Hopefully, we will now get justice for the other girls."

A statement through her solicitors, Lavelle Coleman, said: "In a recent settlement, Teresa Cooper has received substantial High Court damages and has concluded her years of effort to secure justice in her case.

"Represented by Lavelle Coleman solicitors and Elizabeth Anne Grumble QC, Teresa was finally vindicated and her pain and suffering were properly acknowledged.