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'Desperately sad' for family of Charlotte Shaw as mum loses compensation bid

By NDJPhilippa  |  Posted: April 19, 2013

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Charlotte Shaw

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THE solicitor who has been trying to get justice for a Bideford school girl, who died during a Ten Tors training expedition in 2007, said it is "desperately sad" the appeal to get compensation from her former school has been lost.

Jennifer Wilkin Shaw has been trying to prove her daughter Charlotte Shaw's school was negligent in their care of the pupils who were carrying out a training expedition on Dartmoor for Ten Tors.

The aim was for Mrs Wilkin Shaw to receive £350,000 compensation from Edgehill College Enterprises Ltd, the trust who ran the school which is now Kingsley School, for her daughter's death.

But today the High Court ruled that although the staff who should have been looking after the pupils were negligent it was too speculative to say that they were the cause of Charlotte's death.

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Charles Hattersley, from Ashfords Solicitors, has been representing Mrs Wilkin Shaw for the past five years.

He said there were two main things to come out of the verdict today; the fact the judges did say a teacher at the school was negligent and the message the judges have inadvertently given about giving help when in a hostile environment.

"It is just bizarre really, common sense would tell you that if Kathryn Timms (a teacher) had arrived in time then the group might not have taken the decision to cross the river", he said.

Mr Hattersley added: "It is a big lesson to anyone in a hostile environment not to offer an help because if the scoutmaster Trevor Wills hadn't given advice to the group the chain of causation wouldn't have been broken and more weight might have been given to the teachers' negligence.

"As it was the judges ruled it was too speculative to say. In our view it is a terrible message. I certainly would think twice about giving advice myself now because you are putting yourself in danger.

"It is such a twist at the end and ultimately we have come to the end of the legal remedies.

"Jennifer has realised there is no such thing as justice. Hopefully she has had the best legal support but it is desperately sad for Jennifer. Her primary object was to get justice." Mr Hattersley confirmed that for the five and half year's work a total of £1.5 million has been racked up in legal costs."

Andy Waters, the head teacher at Kingsley School, said: "As has been the case since the tragic death of Charlotte more than six years ago, our thoughts remain with her family and friends and we continue to extend them our deepest sympathy.

"The governors and management of the school have received the Civil Appeal Court judgement but will make no further comment on the case."

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  • Felixthecat11  |  April 19 2013, 12:59PM

    The whole case was and is very sad. However, in my opinion the legal case should never have been brought simply because no amount of financial compensation can replace one's child. I regret to say the parasitic legal industry has too much to answer generally. I just hope this case was on a no-win-no-fee' basis and that the costs of the defendants have to be covered by them too. No, this is not a slight against any single firm as I am sure the advocates would have worked as hard as they could and with integrity and as many would have taken-on the case but my comments are against such cases which have become far too frequent. It is a great shame generally in that the School was not trying to do anything wrong (but in fact absolutely everything right in its objectives for the children) and neither were all those involved in helping at the event but sometimes things can go horribly wrong and that is life. Sometimes individuals take decisions which go wrong and affect themselves as well. It is all very easy after the event to try to 'blame' something or someone. We can all relive past bad decisions we may have made and consider what might have been 'if'. Meantime, fewer activities will be available for all children or people generally as a consequence of the accident and the claims and we are all paying infinitely higher insurance and regulatory costs as a consequence of far too many of these types of claims and I welcome the dismissal of the appeal - for the sake of common sense. The distress caused to everyone involved will have been immense and sadly the grieving for the family will have been put on hold as the grisly details would have been trawled out time and time again. I hope the family will now be able to reflect upon positive memories of their precious daughter and will be able to close the grieving process and move on in life. I really hope the legal profession will look at its navel and take a rather different line with future such instances - even if that means it doesn't 'earn' so much money from the sector.

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