The family of a boy who fell through a school roof during an alleged break-in owes hundreds of thousands of pounds after attempting to sue a county council in England for not properly securing the area.
Thomas Buckett, now 20, is lucky to be alive.
On May 30, 2010, Buckett and a few of his friends had just finished ransacking a snack store inside Clayton Hall Business and Language College in Stoke-on-Trent, where they stole food and sodas, the Daily Mirror reported.
Then they made their way up to the roof after two of Buckett’s friends reportedly ignored warnings from police. While walking along the roof, Buckett fell through the school’s skylight and plunged 15 feet onto the floor. He fractured his skull and was in a coma for two weeks.
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He was rushed to a nearby hospital and underwent a revolutionary neurosurgery procedure. The surgery involved a synthetic piece of artificial skull, which was flown in from Italy and placed into his head.
Buckett, who was told by doctors he would probably never walk or talk again, beat the odds. He became only the third patient in the U.K. to successfully undergo the complicated surgical procedure.
“He had such a severe head injury, most people wouldn’t normally survive it,” said his mother, Mandy Buckett.
The surgery saved his life, but it also cost the family nearly $15,000. The family launched a lawsuit against Staffordshire County Council, which owns the school.
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The family argued that even though Buckett was trespassing, the county council did not take proper precautionary measures to secure the roof from being accessed and had ignored a problem with trespassers.
The court also heard that the school had scaled back security before the incident.
A judge agreed that more could have been done to secure the roof, but still ruled in the council’s favor. He ordered the family to pay legal costs of the equivalent of at least $220,000 to the council by May 4. That costs could rise up to as much as $385,000 after further assessment, the Daily Mirror reported.
The judge ultimately ruled the school took “reasonable measures” to secure the building.
“There were few measures, reasonably achievable within the likely school budget, it could have taken, to prevent all act of trespass outside school hours,” the judge said during his decision. “This meant the school ought to have risk assessed the likelihood of youths gaining access to the flat roofs.”
The judge sympathized with the family, but added that the “courts are guided by evidence.”
“Mrs. Buckett has lost this claim but there’s no disguising the fact Thomas has been very seriously injured as a consequence of this and that is a great tragedy to his family and his friends,” he added. “The courts are guided by evidence. I’m never guided by sentiment even though I have represented a number of critically injured people over my working life of 27 years at the bar.”
Buckett originally claimed he was on the roof to retrieve a soccer ball, but police said closed-circuit TV cameras captured the boys fooling around on the roof. Authorities added that Thomas was jumping on the skylight as a dare when he fell through.
“This was a terrible incident that has had a profound and life-changing impact on Thomas and his family,” Chief Executive John Tradewell told the Daily Mirror. “We have every sympathy with them and wish Thomas well in his continued recovery."
Buckett, who was 16 years old at the time of the incident, was never arrested, charged or convicted of any crime for trespassing with his friends that night.
Photo Credit: Supplied Via Daily Mirror