The family of a teenager who took her own life while studying in Aberdeen have launched a landmark legal case against another student who was convicted of abusing her.
Emily Drouet, 18, took her own life at New Carnegie Court halls in 2016 after being subjected to a campaign of abuse from Angus Milligan.
Milligan was given a 12 months’ supervision order and 120 hours’ community service in the criminal courts after admitting assaulting and abusing Emily – but a separate case in the civil courts is now under way.
Brought by Emily’s family, the civil case comes under ‘loss of society’ law.
It is thought to be the first case of its kind in Scottish legal history in which a claim has been made that someone’s negligence caused another to take their own life.
People can use this law to claim compensation for the death of a close relative resulting from negligence and there is no upper limit on the compensation amount.
‘Our family is holding him liable’
Emily’s mother Fiona Drouet MBE is listed as a party in the case and Angus Milligan is listed as the other.
The case called at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on May 30 and a future date is yet to be set.
Fiona told us: “It is our family holding him liable for Emily’s suicide.
“If successful it would be a landmark case in hopefully ensuring suicides that follow domestic abuse are investigated and the perpetrator held responsible.”
According to Nicola Edgar, personal injury law partner at Morton Fraser Lawyers, separate claims can be made by multiple close relatives.
In this case, that would be Fiona, as well as Emily’s dad Germain, 43, and her siblings Rachel, 21, and Calvin, 17.
Ms Edgar said: “Loss of society is a financial award which can be made to relatives to compensate them for the death of a loved one.
“In deciding the level of these awards, the court would take into account the distress, sorrow, grief and anxiety each of the relatives have suffered, and will continue to suffer in the future as a result of their loss.
“This would include consideration of the psychiatric impact the loss has had on each of them.
“There are other damages that family members may also claim, including funeral costs”
If the family were to win their case, a judge would have to decide how much to award.
Awards can typically be up to £100,000 for parents and up to £50,000 for siblings, but every case is different.
But there is a potential stumbling block because such cases must be brought within three years of the person’s death and Emily died in 2016.
However, it can also be argued the three-year time period does not start until the individual became aware their loss was caused as a result of the wrongful act of another individual.
‘We just have to keep everything crossed’
It is understood the judge in the case is still to decide if this time bar applies.
Fiona said: “We are unsure what the next steps will be but should know more when we get the ruling from the judge about the time bar.
“We just have to keep everything crossed in the meantime for a positive result.”
In 2020, Fiona provided a shocking account of her daughter’s time as a fresher at Aberdeen University as part of our series about domestic violence called The Hidden Hurt.
Emily moved to the Granite City from her home on the south side of Glasgow to study law and French law.
There she met Milligan, three years her senior and from a family of lawyers and a million-pound house in Edinburgh.
The at-times distressing account of events contained in The Hidden Hurt states that Emily and Milligan started an on-again-off-again relationship which saw Milligan abuse Emily.
On one occasion, Milligan shouted in the courtyard for all of New Carnegie Court to hear that Emily was “a slut and a whore.”
He played the video while laughing
He also poured a glass of beer over Emily’s head during a night out.
Another time, Milligan took her by the throat and slammed her head down on a desk, before choking her until she passed out.
The 30-minute encounter was recorded by Angus who later played it back to his friends, laughing as he did so.
In 2017, just over a year after Emily was found dead, Milligan appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.
He admitted sending Emily grossly offensive and menacing messages, grabbing her by the neck, choking her, pushing her against a desk and slapping her and shouted abuse at her.
Five other charges, including one alleging he tried to choke her minutes before she took her own life were dropped due to a lack of evidence.
Milligan was later sentenced to 12 months’ supervision and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.
But Emily’s family felt a sense of injustice, particularly because Milligan was not jailed and was able to resume his studies at another college after being expelled from Aberdeen University.
Fiona said: “We do not believe Emily got justice from the courts in 2017.
“Our daughter had her life taken away and yet he is carrying on unimpeded, as if nothing has happened.
‘It’s about holding people accountable’
“We hope this will show others that the controlling and violent behaviour he exhibited towards Emily should have no place in our society.
“This isn’t about money, it is about holding people accountable for their actions.
“It’s about making somebody understand there are consequences when they bully others and they shouldn’t just be allowed to walk away from these actions.”
We contacted Balfour and Manson, who are representing Milligan. The company chose not to comment.
Previously Professor Margaret Ross, of Aberdeen University, said the university was satisfied it offered an appropriate level of support to her prior to her death.
She added: “Nonetheless, we have since carried out a review of our student support procedures, and where we have identified opportunities we have made changes to enhance the level of support available.”
The university has created an annual award in Emily’s memory for students who go above and beyond.
It has also created a scholarship in Emily’s name.
For anyone seeking support, the Samaritans offer a free and confidential emotional support service 24 hours a day, every day, on 116 123.