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High Court, Queen’s Bench Division
Judge Graham Wood QC
23 October 2015
The Claimant received £172,553 in damages for the psychiatric injuries suffered as a result of the sexual abuse she was victim to at the hands of the defendant, her former karate instructor between the ages of 14 and 18.
For pain, suffering and loss of amenity, the claimant was in the ‘moderately severe psychiatric injury’ category. In order to determine where in the category she was, it was relevant to take into account identifiable features of her psychiatric injury rather than to other considerations better suited to aggravated damages. The trial judge considered the claimant to be particularly resilient to the abuse she had suffered over a long period though, with the potential for therapies to improve her further, this placed the claimant in the middle of the bracket: £30,000 awarded. Aggravated damages, because of an abuse of trust and for the humiliations caused to the claimant at having to make disclosure years after the incident: £9,000. Mental distress, an award commonly given in sexual abuse cases, is difficult to quantify. The judge applied the banding used in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  ICR 318 CA and, taking into account that the claimant was trapped as she could not tell anyone and could not leave as she then feared that she would have to tell someone, her injuries were commensurate with the upper end of the second band: £16,000. The aggregate sum of general damages was £55,000.
As wrongful conduct occurred at an early stage in the claimant’s life, it is difficult to say what she would have done but for the injury. The judge therefore took a broad brush approach. With loss of earnings claimed at £92,000, taking into account uncertainties, the judge allowed £75,000. Future loss of earnings slightly over 1 year: £30,000. Other sums including for travel, medical treatment and prescription costs were allowed at £12,553. The total figure for damages awarded was £172,553.
This case clearly shows the court’s approach taken in quantifying damages for psychiatric injuries whilst distinguishing between the quantification for mental distress and aggravated damages.Kim Pryce and Louise Taylor, Anthony Gold