Settlements, awards and interest in recently reported Scottish child abuse claims

As recently reported by the BBC and elsewhere, including The Daily Telegraph and The Times, Fettes College has agreed to pay £400,000 to a former pupil who alleged physical and sexual abuse by a teacher between 1975 and 1981. The Telegraph reports that 20 former pupils have ongoing claims against the school, with the former school master named as an alleged abuser.

Separately, Scottish Legal News has recently reported a “six figure settlement” to a 44 year old man who alleged sexual abuse by a teacher at Aberlour House in 1990 when he was age 12. At the time, Aberlour House was a prep school for Gordonstoun, with the schools legally separate then though they have since merged.

While each case should be considered on its own particular facts and circumstances, these large settlements follow the even higher judicial awards made in A v Glasgow City Council, Lord Brailsford, Court of Session, 13 October 2021 and AB v The English Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Sheriff Dickson, ASPIC, 11 January 2022. Both A and AB were awarded more than £1.3m.

Further detail on these cases is provided in a previous blog.

The potential for interest in Scottish claims to add considerably to awards in this area is worth noting on past solatium (general damages or PSLA award) and past wage loss. This is particularly so with interest in such non-recent Scottish abuse claims being calculated from the occurrence of the abuse rather than from the commencement of litigation. In T v The English Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Sheriff McGowan, ASPIC, 30 January 2020, for example, the award net of interest was £185,000. Interest on past losses increased this by £132,224 to £317,224.

The Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) is presently reviewing matters relating to the Scottish 8% per year full judicial rate of interest. The minutes of SCJC’s meeting on 25 April 2022 record that “further work is required to clarify the policy objectives that should inform the mechanism used for setting the rate” and that SCJC has “requested a further policy paper to clarify the overarching policy objective in setting the judicial rate of interest”. SCJC is next scheduled to meet on 18 July then 24 October, both 2022. The likelihood of further challenges to the present rate in litigation cannot be discounted.  

Written by Frank Hughes, partner and Fiona McEwan, associate

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