Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Wiltshire school hammer attack pupil refused damages

Henry Webster
Mr Webster was aged 15 at the time of the attack in 2007

A teenager who was left brain damaged in a claw hammer attack at his school has lost his battle for compensation at the High Court in London.

Henry Webster, now 18, brought the legal action against Ridgeway School in Wroughton, Wiltshire, where he was assaulted by a gang in January 2007.

The school denied being negligent as the attack happened after school hours.

Thirteen people, including teenagers, were convicted over the assault in 2008 and given custodial sentences.

Skull fractures

Mr Webster was 15 when he was punched, kicked and hit with a claw hammer by a group of Asian pupils and young men on the school's tennis courts.

He suffered three skull fractures.

His legal team argued there was a negligent failure by the school to maintain proper discipline and deal with racial tension.

Mr Webster's mother Elizabeth, 14-year-old brother Joseph and stepfather Roger Durnford, of Beranburh Field, Wroughton, were also seeking compensation for the trauma of witnessing his injuries but their claims will now also fail.

The shock of seeing him lying in a pool of blood must have been traumatic for his brother, mother and stepfather
Mr Justice Nicol

In his ruling, Mr Justice Nicol said the school did not breach its duty to take reasonable care to keep Mr Webster reasonably safe while on its premises.

He said that Mr Webster was the victim of a "brutal and criminal attack, which was very nearly fatal and left him with serious injuries".

"Those immediately responsible have been prosecuted and punished," he said.

"No-one, let alone an innocent 15-year-old boy, should have had to put up with the pain and suffering that he has had to endure.

"The shock of seeing him lying in a pool of blood must have been traumatic for his brother, mother and stepfather.

"Yet the sympathy which everyone must feel for the claimants cannot determine whether the Ridgeway School is liable to pay them compensation."

'Deeply disappointed'

He concluded that, while "it is more likely than not" that race did play an important part in the motivation of four of the boys involved the attack, it did not take the Websters very far as they could not show that any breach was causative of the injury to Mr Webster.

Peter Lay, chairman of governors at the school, said: "We believe the fact that all eight points with which liability was argued were dismissed by the judge vindicates the school in defeating the suggestion that the event was caused by failure on the school's part."

The Webster family, who were not in court on Friday, said in a statement they were "deeply shocked and disappointed" at the judge's decision.

"We are in the process of analysing and coming to terms with the judge's analysis," they said.

"We must express our immense gratitude to all of the individuals who gave their time to come to court and give evidence on Henry's part."

Thirteen people were convicted in 2008 of being involved in the attack and given sentences ranging from eight months to eight years.



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SEE ALSO
Hammer attack boy's damage claim
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Hammer attack school under review
12 Feb 09 |  Wiltshire
'I could have lost him forever'
08 Apr 08 |  Wiltshire
Group sentenced for hammer attack
09 May 08 |  Wiltshire
Hammer fight was 'Tarantino-like'
08 Jan 08 |  Wiltshire

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