School not liable "fore" injury to pupil

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In a County Court decision, I read today that a local authority had been found liable for injury sustained by a pupil during a golf lesson at school (Hammersley-Gonsalves (A Child by his Litigation Friend T Gonsalves) v Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council (2012)).

It seems that another pupil took it upon himself to take a swing at his golf ball before being advised by his supervising teacher that it was safe to do so.  He struck a fellow pupil as he swung his club.

The County Court judge found that the lesson was not adequately supervised and that the local authority were in breach of duty to the injured pupil.

The case went to the Court of Appeal.  There had been no allegation regarding lack of supervision.But what I find particularly interesting is, even if lack of supervision had been pleaded, the Appeal Court judge held that additional supervision was not required.  The children were 12 years old and the nature of the activity did not warrant it.  Nor, on balance, would any action taken by the supervising teacher have made any difference in any event.  The Judge was of the view that the County Court judge had also failed to address this issue and neither the local authority, nor the teacher, were negligent or in breach of their duty to the injured child.

In my view this is a sensible decision.  While it is absolutely imperative that our children are safe while at school, all too often we hear of cancelled activities for fear of repercussions.  Our children must be allowed to be children and our schools must be allowed to expand both our children's minds and activities. Golf, in my opinion, is a sport that cannot be underestimated in the world of business.  I wish that I had learned this skill at school.

Deborah Blackmore

Chartered Legal Executive - Personal Injury team

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