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Former Oakwood School pupils have received more than £2million in compensation from Suffolk County Council

PUBLISHED: 07:47 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 07:47 21 September 2017

The former Oakwood School in Stowmarket. Picture: ARCHANT

The former Oakwood School in Stowmarket. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

The law firm representing former pupils of the disgraced Oakwood School in Stowmarket say their clients have received more than £2million in compensation from Suffolk County Council.

Solicitor Andrew Grove, of Cambridge-based Andrew Grove and Company, said 123 people who attended the school dating back to the 1970s had received payouts totalling an estimated £2.2m.

Oakwood School closed in 2000 following complaints from pupils alleging various forms of abuse from staff.

In May 2015, Eric De Smith, then aged 76, of Danes Close, Stowmarket, who was headmaster of Oakwood School from 1975 to 1996, was jailed for seven years for sexually abusing four boys who attended the school.

Mr Grove said there was an “atmosphere of violence” at the school.

“Compensation doesn’t really satisfy them because many have lost their childhoods,” he said.

“They have had a terrible school experience, and for some of them, it was for 10 years.

“It was an atmosphere of violence and the fear of violence.

“Living in this atmosphere is very bad for developing children.

“The effects stay with you because that is the age when personalities are forming.”

Mr Grove said the battle for compensation was a traumatic experience for many of his clients.

“Some of them have been waiting for six years,” he said.

“They have had to give long witness statements and tell the story of what happened to them again. Some have been reliving it through the period of the claim.

“Many of them have taken counselling.

“They use the word closure, and closure only comes when they have got the money and can get on with their lives.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “The individual claims were fully investigated and a settlement was made following advice from our legal representatives.

“Oakwood School was a unique establishment in Suffolk which closed in 2000 following serious concerns and Suffolk’s safeguarding measures have significantly improved in line with the relevant legislation.”

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