Boy's mother granted leave to challenge school's handling of sex assault claim

The mother of a Northern Ireland schoolboy allegedly subjected to a sexual assault by other pupils has won High Court permission to challenge the handling of her complaints.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 20th April 2016, 2:28 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th April 2016, 3:30 pm
Pacemaker Press 22/5/2013   Belfast High Court Building  in Belfast City centre  Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 22/5/2013 Belfast High Court Building in Belfast City centre Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A judge granted leave to seek a judicial review amid claims that a board of governors failed to properly review and examine welfare issues.

Police are currently investigating allegations that the boy was held down and stripped after losing an arm-wrestling match.

The alleged incident happened on an overnight trip during a so-called game of ‘dirty dare’.

Neither the child at the centre of the case, whose age was not revealed in court, nor the secondary school can be identified.

He was said to have gone with classmates to a location in Co Down last year.

During their stay some of the pupils took part in games in a dormitory, the court heard.

It was claimed that at one point his tracksuit bottoms were pulled down before he was sexually assaulted for up to 10 seconds.

A week later the incident was reported to a sixth-form mentor and then referred to a child protection officer at the school.

The legal challenge centres on a contention that its board of governors should have done more by convening a meeting to look into what happened.

Counsel for the school argued that senior teachers did put measures in place to deal with concerns.

Donal Sayers also indicated that a meeting will take place to explore any disciplinary measures once a police investigation is concluded.

In court today he confirmed the two boys involved in the alleged assault were not suspended, stressing that should be a step of “last resort”.

Mr Sayers argued, however, that the school responded immediately by speaking to the boys and their parents before referring the matter to police and social services.

The barrister added: “It has put a package of measures in place while the investigative process continues to try to ensure all those involved in the incident can continue to receive their education.”

But Mr Justice Maguire pointed out that similar complaints within a family often lead to the alleged victim or perpetrator being temporarily removed.

Granting leave to seek a judicial review, he held that the boy’s mother has established an arguable case.

The judge cautioned it was only a preliminary verdict on a case that will now progress to a full hearing later this year.

He said: “It should not be viewed by the school as being in any way a condemnation of anything the school has done or not done, and it should not be viewed by the applicant as anything more than it is.”