Sunderland School was responsible for a 10 year old child losing the top of his finger after he was forced to climb over a locked gate to get to public swimming baths, a court has ruled in a legal case pursued by union GMB and Thompsons Solicitors.

The boy, now 12, and his friends, who always used the gate to get to the baths, thought they had no choice but to climb when they found it unexpectedly locked. They had all been forbidden by their parents to take another route which was by a busy main road. As the boy climbed over his hand was caught on a spike at the top of the gate which resulted in him losing the top of one of his fingers.

The defendants, Sunderland CLC Schools Ltd, denied liability, arguing that the gate was not an accepted public access route to the school and that it always remained locked and therefore that the boy was a trespasser. However, Thompsons obtained witness evidence from neighbours who said that the gate was always unlocked and used regularly by children.

The Judge decided in the boy’s favour after Thompsons Solicitors argued that the school had not discharged its duty of care under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.

Commenting on the case, the family’s solicitor, Claire Strettle, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The gate was proven to be a common access route to the school. In her judgment, the judge commented that if the school had wished to lock the gate they should have displayed a sign advising of an alternative route and, that when faced with a locked gate, most adults would find an alternative route or abandon their journey, whereas a child of 10 could not be expected to do so and would most probably attempt to climb the gate. The School was aware that children would be visiting the premises at the time of the accident and so the claim of £3,600 was successful.”

Parent's Union Supports Compensation Claim

Tommy Brennan, Regional Secretary for GMB Northern, said: “This is a service provided by GMB Northern to members and their families. In this case the parents were able to access the legal service through their family membership, and as a consequence were able to obtain compensation and hopefully prevent this from happening to other children.”

The boy’s mother, said: “I’d like to ensure that other children aren’t put in this dangerous situation. Children of any age cannot always be expected to know what the best course of action is, and in my son’s case it resulted in serious injury to his hand. Any organisation, be a school, hospital or football club, must ensure that public access points are clearly and properly managed.”