Knife attack victim fights for tens of thousands of pounds’ compensation

Attacker Graham Burton stabbed social worker Claire Selwood.
Attacker Graham Burton stabbed social worker Claire Selwood.
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A SOCIAL worker stabbed by a psychiatric patient is battling for six-figure compensation in the High Court.

Claire Selwood was stabbed six times by Graham Burton, of Murton, after he confronted her during a professional conference in County Durham.

The 42-year-old mother-of-three, formerly from Chester-le-Street, suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack and was profoundly traumatised by her ordeal.

Her lawyers claim Burton, 41, had earlier told medics at Sunderland’s Cherry Knowle Hospital that he would kill Ms Selwood on the spot if he saw her.

But on October 18, 2006 – two days before the attack – they say he was released “on leave” from the hospital.

Burton took a large kitchen knife to the meeting – attended by Ms Selwood and other professionals – and her lawyers say her “surprise” at seeing him there turned to horror when he launched the near-fatal attack.

The victim was taken to hospital with the knife sticking in her back. It took a surgeon and three others to remove the blade as it was so deeply embedded.

Ms Selwood is suing her then employer, Durham County Council, and two NHS Trusts she claims bear responsibility for what happened – the Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust, and Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

Burton was jailed indefinitely for public protection in June 2007, for the attempted murder of Ms Selwood.

Her case reached London’s High Court yesterday, as she challenged a County Court ruling in February which “struck out” her case against all except the county council.

A judge had ruled that neither of the NHS trusts could be held liable because they owed her no “duty of care”.

Ms Selwood’s QC, Michael Kent, argued that all three defendants had some responsibility towards her because they were all involved with Burton in one form or another as part of a “multi-disciplinary team”.

After a short hearing Mr Justice MacDuff granted Ms Selwood permission to appeal, with the case now set to be heard by three judges in the Civil Appeal Court.

He said it was “arguable” that where there was “knowledge that a patient is to be released” – and links between Ms Selwood and all the defendants – a duty of care could exist.

He said of the strike-out decision: “It is arguable that the judge erred in taking the course he did at this early stage of the proceedings.”

Twitter: @sunechodesker