Vulnerable teen's high court claim

A TEENAGER who hurled herself from a third floor window to escape attackers who kicked her door in was today battling for more than £3 million compensation.

A TEENAGER who hurled herself from a third floor window to escape attackers who kicked her door in was today battling for more than £3 million compensation.

Jennifer Bluett, was a "vulnerable" 16-year-old when she leapt 40 feet onto concrete from the window of her bedroom at "The Foyer" - a hostel for troubled young people - in Star Lane, Ipswich, on January 3 1998.

She was rushed to hospital in a coma and for a long time only hung onto life by a thread, said her counsel, Mr John Cherry QC, who added her damages claim had been valued at "£3 million plus".

As well as multiple broken bones, she suffered brain damage which has left her memory and concentration impaired. But she has, in some ways, made a remarkable recovery and had a baby in 2000.

Now she is seeking compensation from Suffolk County Council along with the "occupiers" of the hostel and the security firm whose officer was on duty that night - all of whom deny they were "at fault".

Jennifer, now 22, originally from Mildenhall, Suffolk, is also suing three of those later convicted of involvement in the fracas.

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However, as they were uninsured, her claim against them is unlikely to be financially viable.

Mr Cherry told London's High Court Richard Marjoram and Sarah Davy were convicted of causing grievous bodily harm at Ipswich Crown Court in March 1999. He was jailed for 12 months and she was given 240 hours community service.

Joanne Blowers was given 80 hours community service for affray.

A senior High Court official last year "struck out" Jennifer's claim against the county council and the hostel's "occupiers" - Anglia Housing Group Ltd, Foyer for Ipswich Ltd and the Wherry Housing Association Ltd.

Mr Cherry is now battling to overturn that ruling on her behalf so that her claim against those defendants can go forward to a full trial.

For its part, the firm contracted to provide security at the hostel - Night Hawk Security - is asking Mr Justice Poole to also strike out Jennifer's claim against them.

Mr Cherry said Jennifer had had "a troubled childhood" and, from the age of 13, had been placed with various foster parents. After the final placement broke down, she moved into The Foyer on December 22 1997.

The QC said the hostel "advertised itself" as a safe place for young people to "move from dependence to independence" and said it operated a "zero tolerance" policy on drugs.

But in fact the hostel was "in a state of some turmoil", claimed Mr Cherry. Misbehaviour and disorder by residents was commonplace and "undesirable" visitors were not effectively barred from the premises.

In the early hours of January 3 1998, after earlier confrontations, a group of young people congregated outside Jennifer's third floor bedroom. They eventually kicked the door in and the teenager was so terrified she leapt from her window to avoid their clutches, the court heard.

Mr Cherry said Night Hawk claimed it was only responsible for security on the hostel's ground floor.

But he told the judge the security officer on duty that night "was in fact a drunk". He died in December 1999, with one of his causes of death given as chronic alcohol abuse and liver cirrhosis.

"The man on duty that night may have been of limited use in stopping or attempting to stop anyone entering the premises", said the QC.

Mr Cherry said the hostel's occupiers knew about the vandalism but claimed to be "blissfully" unaware of drink and drugs problems at the hostel.

He argued they had shown a "blatant disregard" for the state of the premises and, ultimately, Jennifer's safety.

Jennifer was not formally in the care of Suffolk County Council, but the QC argued it had been bound up in her case for several years and a council social worker had been instrumental in her placement at The Foyer.

He told the judge it would be "wrong in the extreme" to prevent Jennifer's case against the council being tested at a full trial. The hearing continues.

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