Woman loses school bullying damages case

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN who was the first person in Britain to take a council to court claiming she was bullied at school yesterday lost her damages case.

Becky Walker, now a 20- year-old law student at Nottingham University, was ordered to pay the costs of the hearing which were estimated at pounds 20,000 to pounds 30,000.

But her solicitor Clifford Bellamy said afterwards that the costs would 'most probably' be met by Derbyshire County Council's insurers. Her own case was brought on legal aid.

Miss Walker, who has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth, had claimed she was hounded out of the Panharmonic Steel Band at Bolsover School, Derbyshire, in a year-long hate campaign by three other girls.

She said she had suffered psychological damage because of snide remarks and nasty looks from the girls who resented her presence in the band when she was aged 13 to 14. Miss Walker had claimed a four-figure compensation sum from the county council.

But Judge Thomas Heald ruled at Nottingham County Court that the authority was not to blame. He said the schoolmaster in charge of the band, David Gibbons, was not in breach of his duties as a teacher in dealing with the bullying allegations.

The judge dismissed claims that a breakdown suffered by Miss Walker while at university was a result of bullying at school.

He also said he was not impressed with her father Adrian Walker as a witness. He said he could think of nothing more upsetting for Miss Walker than six years of complaints procedure and litigation.

'That clearly was not in her interests and doubtless caused more lasting damage to her than the original incident of which she complained,' the judge said.

After the case, Mr Walker, a retired teacher, of Hill Top, Bolsover, Derbyshire, said he was amazed and angry about the decision. 'I do not think we have got justice today.

'I have been criticised for trying to help my daughter. The Government has told people like Becky not to suffer in silence. This is a directive to schools and education authorities.

'But yet the judge says we should not have complained. I think we always knew there was a good chance we would lose the case. But a point has been made,' Mr Walker said.

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