15.7.2020: Leigh Day solicitors press release

A Member of Islington Survivors Network successfully sues local authority for abuse in children’s home. Claire, not her real name, spent her childhood in living in care at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

Gisburne House, 95 Gammons Lane Watford, Hertfordshire ; The site of physical, sexual & psychological child abuse and neglect. ISN survivors and also former staff tell of a violent Pin Down regime which some reported to management. 54 survivors have come forward from this home – just one of 48 LBI childrens homes from the mid 60s to the 90s. (ISN image)

Claire, not her real name, spent her childhood in living in care at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

While there she was subjected to sexual abuse by members of staff and another child resident.

The Superintendent of the home, Geoffrey Wylde-Jones, now deceased, was one of those said to have committed a number of serious sexual assaults upon Claire.  

Other survivors of abuse have previously named him as a perpetrator.

23.4.85 Islington Council minutes show how Wylde Jones resigned on 31.1.84 from his position as Superintendant of Gisburne House. A 10 year reign of terror 1974-1984. Survivors cite him as also having worked in 4 other LBI children’s homes. (ISN image)

Islington Council initially sought to reject Claire’s claim, putting forward a repudiation.

Leigh Day solicitors pressed ahead with obtaining medical evidence and supportive witness evidence from former Islington social workers. Settlement was eventually agreed at £35,000 and Claire has also requested an individual apology from the Council.

Leigh Day is bringing compensation claims on behalf of a number of former care leavers of Islington’s children’s homes.

The law firm also represents Islington Survivors Network (ISN) in its fight to have a comprehensive redress scheme established for former Islington care leavers affected by the Council’s past failure to protect vulnerable children.

The Islington child abuse scandal was first exposed in the early 1990s in a series of reports by the Evening Standard. 

In September 2017, Cllr Richard Watts, the Leader of the Council, admitted that the local authority was culpable for abuse in its children’s homes and spoke about righting the wrongs of the past.  

Thanks to the efforts of ISN, support for their members was put in place by way of the Islington Survivors’ Trauma Service and Islington Survivors’ Support Services, however, as of yet, a full redress scheme has still not been established, meaning that for those members who wish to obtain individual recognition and / or redress then bringing a civil legal claim may be the only option. 

Islington Council has spoken of a “financial support scheme” being offered to survivors of abuse, but this has not yet been clarified or materialised.

An article in the Islington Gazette in July 2019 quoted Cllr Watts as saying that the scheme was “legally complex”. In a further article in the Islington Gazette in May 2020, Cllr Watts stated that they were working hard on a scheme and that he was himself “frustrated by how long it’s taken”.

Andrew Lord, associate solicitor in the abuse team at Leigh Day, said:

“Claire had to fight hard against the barriers put up in her legal claim. Whilst I am pleased that she will receive the compensation that she so rightly deserves, it is utter nonsense that she was put through the stress of such an adversarial process given what has been reported about abuse in Islington’s children’s homes and the public apology made by Islington Council.

“I would echo ISN’s call for Islington Council to promptly establish a redress scheme for survivors of Islington’s care system to provide a route to redress that is quicker, simpler and less re-traumatising for survivors. 

“Given its public admission of culpability, acknowledgement of past systemic failures, and its promises of financial support, the council’s delay in this regard is doing nothing to help survivors heal from their experiences in care.”

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Read a blog about Gisburne: The Horrors of Gisburne House

Report #6 Organised abuse the Islington evidence. Section on Gisburne House

Islington Gazette 3.11.17 Survivors accounts about Gisburne. How Gisburne House in Watford may hold key to abuse Inquiry … ‘superintendent Geoffrey Wylde-Jones allegedly led a military style regime where children were regularly manhandled’ ‘ I was really terrified. I felt I had no power there: no one cared’ ‘Wylde Jones was never prosecuted’ ‘Extreme neglect was the norm, children in a highly sexualised environment..’

1977 World in Action programme – Wylde Jones featured speaking about the ‘pioneering’ work of Gisburne House with young offenders – but Gisburne was a childrens home not a secure unit and also very young disabled children lived there as well as young teenage girls with their babies. The reasons and rationale for admission of a child to this home are unclear.

Survivor’s remember the Gisburne song – here is part of it;

Come to Gisburne
Come to Gisburne
It’s a place of misery
There’s a notice in the doorway
Saying ‘ Welcome it’s a treat’.
Take no notice
Take no notice
It’s a load of bloody lies
If it wasn’t for Jonesey
It would be a paradise
Build a bomfire
Build a bomfire
Put Jonesey on the top
Put the rest of them in the middle
And burn the bloody lot!

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