Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:38 UK

Home abuse claimants win payout

Five men who claimed they were abused in a children's home in Berkshire 40 years ago have received an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount.

The allegations relate to Green Field House, Maidenhead, which was run by the now obsolete Berkshire County Council.

The home was then managed by the late Don Prescott.

The civil settlement, by one of the council's successors - Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council - came despite no criminal convictions.

A spokeswoman for the council said it could not accept liability for the alleged abuse, because the council was simply administering something which had been left after Berkshire County Council disbanded in 1998.

The evidence is overwhelming, so they saw the light and decided to settle the claim
Alan Collins
The men's solicitor

Alan Collins, the men's solicitor, said Mr Prescott allegedly rented the boys out to other paedophiles as far afield as Leicester, London, Cambridge and Reading between 1964 and 1970.

Mr Prescott was a former soldier who died about 21 years ago.

In November 2006, nine men, who were all former residents of the care home, received an out-of-court payout totalling more than 300,000 after claiming they were abused by Mr Prescott.

At the time a civil trial had been due to begin at Winchester Crown Court but the former Berkshire County Council's insurers agreed the settlement.

A new civil trial was about to get under way when, on Monday, the insurers agreed to pay out over the five new allegations, Mr Collins said.

"Proceedings had started all over again, because there was initial resistance from the insurers," Mr Collins said.

Charge dropped

"The evidence is overwhelming, so they saw the light and decided to settle the claim," he added.

The evidence included the 14 victims, plus other former boys at the home prepared to testify but who did not want to make claims, he said.

It also included former staff and documents.

The allegations came to light in 2000 when one of the former boys, now in his 40s, suffered a nervous breakdown.

He went to Thames Valley Police, which immediately started an investigation.

One man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with sex abuse, but the case was dropped before trial due to a lack of evidence as only two men had come forward at that time.

Mr Collins said police advised them to seek a civil action.

In a statement, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council said: "Solicitors, appointed by both the insurers of the former Berkshire County Council and Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, as the successor authority, agreed an out-of-court settlement with the legal representatives of the men concerned."

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