Friday, March 31, 2006

A mother who claimed her son was racially abused at a fee-paying school has heard a judge brand every allegation she had made as false in court

The Comet:

Aliya Smethurst with her son Mikhail

But despite her claim being thrown out she has vowed to continue her fight for damages.

Aliya Smethurst, 37, who lives with her husband Patrick and three children in Chancellors, Arlesey, had claimed her son Mikhail was called mud face as a six-year-old at St Christopher's School in Burnham, Somerset, where he was a pupil between 2000 and 2001 and also where the couple worked.

She also claimed she suffered ill-treatment while working at the school as a boarding house matron, had been discriminated against by school staff and been assaulted by a cook.

But Judge Charles Wade dismissed the case at Swindon County Court last week, branding every allegation as false and said there was no evidence Mrs Smethurst's son had been treated less favourably than any of the other children.

Judge Wade told Mrs Smethurst the allegations were "completely without merit".

Mrs Smethurst also alleged her son had been punched, kicked and spat on by fellow pupils and forced to dress as a black cloud while other children wore white at a school play. She also claimed mud and stones had been thrown at her son and he became scared to go to school.

Following the judge's damning verdict why he had dismissed the long-running legal battle for damages against the trust that ran the school, which is now closed, and its former head Diane Symes for alleged racial discrimination, victimisation, harassment and battery, the Arlesey mother said she would appeal.

Speaking from her home Mrs Smethurst said: "I am appealing against the decision. Everything is in the hands of my lawyers and I don't want to discuss the case."

When Mrs Smethurst and her husband moved to the area she worked for a while at St Christopher School in Letchworth GC which has no connection with the West Country school.

Jefferson Horsley, the former chairman of governors for St Christopher's School in Somerset, said: "I am very sad it ever had to take place. But I'm obviously delighted from the point of view of the school on the outcome.

"We always felt it was a caring, loving school and any incidents that were alleged to have taken place were at worst accidents and certainly not with any other motive.

"I don't believe the school was ever discriminatory and we were proud of our commitment, under Di Symes, to equal rights, fairness and all the other things that are vital."

Mrs Smethurst was ordered by the court to pay the school's legal costs.

Mum loses racial abuse claims against school

Court rejects racial abuse claim against Burnham-On-Sea school

Court rejects racial abuse claim

School racism claims "completely without merit"


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