In the case of MXX v A Secondary School the defendant (respondent) was a co-educational secondary school providing education for children aged 11 to 16. In December 2013 the claimant (appellant), then aged 13, joined the school. Between 24 and 28 February 2014, one of the defendant’s former pupils (PXM), undertook a work experience placement at the school. He was aged 18 and attending college hoping to qualify as a physical education (“PE”) teacher.
By early March 2014 PXM and the claimant were communicating on Facebook and exchanges continued until September 2014. In August 2014 PXM committed assault and battery against the claimant. In September 2014 he was arrested and on 2 November 2015 PXM pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child.
At trial, the claim was dismissed on the basis that the Defendant was not vicariously liable for the torts committed against the claimant by PXM. The Claimant appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Claimant relied on a variety of factors in alleging that the Defendant was in a position akin to employment, including that the Defendant regulated many aspects of its relationship with PXM, such as his hours of attendance; the Defendant supervised, directed and controlled PXM’s activities within its school; PXM was held out to the Defendant’s pupils as a staff member: they were told to address him and treat him as they would a staff member and PXM spent his break time with the staff; and the activities undertaken by PXM were of benefit to the Defendant.
The appeal was ultimately dismissed because PXM’s abuse of MXX was not sufficiently closely connected to the duties delegated to him during his work experience placement. Davies LJ attached considerable weight to the determination that PXM had no caring or pastoral role for the pupils. In addition, PXM did not exercise authority over the pupils, he had limited interactions with MXX at the school, he was on placement for only one week, and communication on Facebook did not begin until after his placement.
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