Foyer teenager in fight to sue council

A TEENAGER "catastrophically" injured after leaping from the third floor of a hostel is battling for the right to sue Suffolk County Council who sent her there.

A TEENAGER "catastrophically" injured after leaping from the third floor of a hostel is battling for the right to sue Suffolk County Council who sent her there.

Jennifer Bluett, from Mildenhall, Suffolk, suffered multiple broken bones after jumping 40ft from the window of The Foyer, a hostel for vulnerable young people in Star Lane, Ipswich, on January 3, 1998.

Ms Bluett, 16 at the time, said she was in fear of her life because during the course of the evening a group of youngsters had repeatedly tried to batter her door down, London's Court of Appeal heard.

In February this year the High Court ruled Ms Bluett could not sue Suffolk County Council, who recommended the hostel after a foster placement broke down.

She did win permission to seek damages - which could run to £3 million - from a number of other companies associated with The Foyer, but her legal team still insist the council should bear responsibility.

Today John Cherry QC, for Ms Bluett, attacked the High Court decision and argued the council ought to have "foreseen" that a serious injury could occur because of problems associated with The Foyer.

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The barrister said drinking, drug taking and teenage sex were all regular occurrences, a "cocktail for disaster" and an "accident waiting to happen".

"There was a state of chaos and had been for months," said the barrister, who claimed the county council had failed to properly investigate the safety of the hostel.

Residents regularly defecated on the floor, the one security guard on duty was a "drunk" instructed to remain on the ground floor, and those who lived there were "addicted to violence", said the QC.

On the evening of the tragedy a large group of young people - some of whom were later convicted of criminal offences - gathered outside Ms Bluett's room, he told the court.

Mr Cherry said after a number of unsuccessful attempts to break down the door, the gang eventually succeeded - and Ms Bluett, now a mother of one in her early 20s, jumped from the window.

"She had the choice of two evils," said Mr Cherry, who added the young girl thought she was about to be killed. "She took the only available option, and jumped."

The barrister said the incident was akin to someone having their house set on fire and jumping in order to save their life.

Attacking the evidence of a council employer who was a "philosopher, guardian and friend" to Ms Bluett, Mr Cherry said the social worker should have known the dangers of the hostel after another young girl went there.

Arguing his evidence at the High Court was "unreliable and unsatisfactory", Mr Cherry said the social worker's witness statements were often contradictory.

He added the judgement of Mr Justice Poole - who heard the case at the High Court - "went against the weight of evidence", and he also said the judge had failed to give adequate reasons for some of his findings.

Suffolk County Council deny any suggestion they were responsible for the injuries Ms Bluett suffered.

Lord Justice May and Lord Justice Scott Baker, who are hearing the case, recognised the importance of the case by reserving their decision until a later, unspecified, date.