Councils to be sued over abuse claims

Three local authorities are being sued by former residents of a
private children’s home who claim they were physically, sexually
and emotionally abused.

Allegations of a Dickensian regime involving systematic abuse
and neglect at Barlavington Manor in Petworth, West Sussex, were
first investigated in 1998 by police. No criminal charges were

Children were placed there in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and one
former resident has committed suicide.

Now, eight former residents have served writs for compensation
on Hampshire Council and the London Boroughs of Kensington &
Chelsea, and Southwark. They are alleging that the local
authorities acted negligently in failing to take proper care of
them at Barlavington Manor.

None of the councils would comment further than saying the
matter was in the hands of their lawyers and insurers.

Another 20 former residents are also considering legal action,
said Malcolm Johnson, a solicitor at London-based firm Steel and
Shamash. Johnson, who is secretary of the Association of Child
Abuse Lawyers, is representing one of the former residents who has
issued a writ. He said the damages claims were substantial.

Kensington & Chelsea Council, which placed children at the
home between 1967 and 1984, launched an independent inquiry into
allegations headed by Keith Bilton, at the time chairperson of the
British Association of Social Workers children and families
committee. His overall conclusion was that the allegations were “in
all probability substantially true”. The council accepted the

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