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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 17:52 GMT
Father's action over drug death
A father has launched a High Court action for the right to sue police and social services over the death of his daughter from a drugs overdose.

Melissa Jane Strickson died in October 2001 following an overdose while in the home of two adult alcoholics.

The 13-year-old and three others were harboured there after absconding from school and their homes, a judge heard.

Her father, Victor Strickson, of Darwen, Lancashire, claims serious failings by police and social services.

'Grave issues'

Mr Strickson, of Tockholes Road, initially issued proceedings in Blackburn County Court in October 2002.

But in March last year his claim for damages was struck out by District Judge Law, sitting at Preston County Court. Several other applications were also dismissed.

On Tuesday, Stephen Knafler, for Mr Strickson, argued the county court decisions were perverse, and Mr Strickson was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

He told Mr Justice Goldring, sitting at the High Court in London: "This case raises very grave issues of law of private and public importance."

In the damages claim Mr Strickson wants to bring to court, he describes how, between early 2000 and her death in 2001, Melissa "became beyond parental control and at a serious and obvious risk of suffering significant harm, including injury and death, as a result of her behaviour."

He alleges Lancashire Police and Blackburn with Darwen Council's social services "knew, or should have known," of the risk.

Abduction charges

The court heard Melissa regularly truanted from school, she stole occasionally from her parents, consumed alcohol and drugs and sniffed aerosols and gas.

She frequently mixed with adults "who were reputed, or who were reputed to be alcoholics, prostitutes, criminals and drug users," alleges Mr Strickson's claim form.

Mr Strickson says he and his wife frequently asked the council social services to provide additional support, and "to take action against the various inappropriate adults with whom Melissa went to stay."

Melissa had absconded on 8 October and gone to stay at the flat of Sally Corkhill and Lee Harrison in Sudell Road, Darwen, with three other girls.

Police searched for the girls at the flat, but failed to find them.

Mr Strickson contends the police were negligent and failed to take reasonable steps and carry out an adequate search.

Later Melissa ate large quantities of the prescribed drug CoProxamol, stored by Ms Corkhill.

In 2002, at Preston Crown Court, Corkhill pleaded guilty to four abduction charges and two of administering a controlled drug and was jailed for two years.

Harrison admitted four charges of child abduction and received a nine-month sentence.

Mr Strickson wants to claim damages "in excess of 10,000" and obtain court declarations both social services and police failed to take reasonable care in the exercise of their duties, as a result of which Melissa suffered harm, injury and death.

Blackburn with Darwen Council later said there had already been a review of the case and a conclusion reached that Melissa's death was "neither predictable nor preventable".


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