Belfast Telegraph

Boy injured climbing fence to retrieve a ball tries to sue school for £40,000 damages - and fails

By Alan Erwin

A boy who injured his hand trying to climb fencing into a Co Antrim school to retrieve a ball has lost a legal battle for £40,000 in damages.

The High Court dismissed his action after finding that he had trespassed on the closed premises as an 11-year-old child.

Ruling that he had been owed no duty of care by the school's owners, a judge also rejected claims that it had created a trap for children playing in the area.

Mr Justice Deeny said: "I see no element of concealment or cloaking of a danger on the part of the occupier here."

The boy, now 16, sued over an incident at Barbour Nursery School in Lisburn in March 2010.

He was playing with friends on adjacent ground when their ball was kicked over 7ft high wire fencing into the school.

He tried to scale the barrier but slipped onto wire protruding from the top, sustaining a "significant" hand injury.

Proceedings were brought against the Southern Education and Library Board, with damages agreed at £40,000 if liability was established.

In evidence the boy said there was now a sign on the school gates stating 'No ball games'.

He accepted there had been some risk in climbing over a fence erected to stop break-ins and realised it was not permitted.

It was claimed that a "spike" had caused his injury.

An engineer called at trial acknowledged the wires had not been sharpened but merely cut.

Another expert said it would be wrong to described them as spiked, describing the fencing as a reasonable deterrent compliant with British standards.

Dealing with the alleged breach of a duty of care, Mr Justice Deeny held that the boy was not a lawful visitor to the erected barrier.

"He could not have been injured unless part of his body was on top of this fence," the judge said. 

"That was the commencement of a trespass by him."

He ruled that the Board had put up the fence, with buffed and painted endings, in compliance with its legal duty to keep people out and protect its property.

"I find that the wire ends on which the boy was unlucky enough to suffer an injury did not constitute 'very very sharp spikes'," he confirmed.

Throwing out the claim that it amounted to a trap for children, Mr Justice Deeny insisted the risks were known.

"A glance at the fence, even by a child, would show that the wire ends were projecting and a moment's consideration would tell him that coming down on those was likely to be painful or possibly injurious to whatever part of his body made the contact," he added.

"For all these reasons I am satisfied that the plaintiff here, despite a genuine injury and his candid evidence, is not entitled to succeed in law."

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