My Trip around the World Was Just a Passport to Crime; Pampered Safari Boy Sues Social Workers for Neglect

Daily Mail (London), February 9, 1996 | Go to article overview

My Trip around the World Was Just a Passport to Crime; Pampered Safari Boy Sues Social Workers for Neglect


Byline: JOHN WOODCOCK;NICK HOPKINS

DURING his years in council care disturbed teenager Jason Cooper had the best that taxpayers' money - and liberal regimes - could buy.

At the age of 14 he was taken on holiday to Denmark, Spain and Scotland.

The following year he spent a total of three months island hopping in the Caribbean, visiting Mexico, and seeing Disney World and Seaworld in Florida.

Then came an African safari, skiing in Norway, and touring Italy, Germany, France, Holland and Sweden.

But now Cooper is planning to repay the social workers who helped lavish [pounds sterling]50,000 worth of public money on him by suing them - for neglect. He claims that after his years of globetrotting he was forced to turn to a life of crime and drug taking because no one had ever taught him the basic skills of how to deal with life.

`Nobody told me how to apply for all the state benefits, like signing on the dole and applying for housing benefit,' he said yesterday. `I feel that I am entitled to be compensated for the life I am now leading, through no fault of my own.'

Cooper, now 23, is seeking compensation from Labour-run Derbyshire County Council, which funded his nine years in care. He is applying for legal aid to start what would be a unique civil action.

To back his case he has a report from psychiatrist Dr Joe Cunnane, who interviewed Cooper for his latest court appearance last September when he was jailed for 15 months for two burglaries.

Dr Cunnane concluded: `Mr Cooper is a man who seems to have had a most unfortunate start in life.

`He was released from care on January 18, 1990 and felt totally unprepared for life in the outside world.

`He received no help finding accommodation and had no knowledge at all of the welfare system.'

Cooper insisted yesterday that his action against the council was not motivated by money.

`I was a bad boy and people set out to change me, but looking back I am sure they went about it in the wrong way.'

He claims his problems began after he was suddenly left to his own devices at the age of 18.

`In care, I had everything,' he said. `When I came out, I found I had nothing. I didn't know how to cope with ordinary situations. Within weeks I was on all kinds of drugs from cannabis to LSD and heroin.'

Then, he says, he had to become a criminal to pay for his habit.

Within ten months, he was serving a three-year jail sentence for conspiring to rob a Post Office with armed accomplices. Other prison terms followed, for car crime and handling stolen property.

Then last September he appeared at Derby Crown Court charged with the two burglaries at homes in Chesterfield.

In his report to the court Dr Cunnane said: `He is a man with a seriously damaged personality who appears to be destined for a life of crime at this stage.

`He fully acknowledges his deficiencies but does not have the means with which to correct them.

`His drug use is excessive and out of control. It would seem to be integrally involved in his offending.

`If nothing changes then it is as certain as is possible to be that both his drug use and offending will resume on release from prison.'

An officer with the Derbyshire probation service said in her report to the court hearing that her discussions with Cooper `lead me to believe that his experiences in care, particularly in secure units, have had a potentially lasting and damaging effect'.

She added: `Clearly his years in residential establishments have ill-equipped him for life in the community.'

Cooper, who was released less than a month ago, is now on the dole, living at a rented terraced house in Rotherham with his 21-year-old girlfriend - an unmarried mother - and her daughter aged three. …

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