Two former pupils who claimed their lives were made a living hell by bullies have failed in their attempt to win damages from their former school.

Caroline Newby and Jamie Bright both needed hospital treatment following assaults but claimed that staff turned a blind eye.

But today a judge ruled that, while he accepted they were bullied, their school had done everything possible to protect them.

They both detailed the ordeal they suffered at the hands of fellow pupils in the early 1990s.

Caroline and Jamie, both 20, brought separate actions against the governors of Shotton Hall Secondary School, Peterlee, Co Durham and Durham County Council.

Their barrister Philip Cramer told Teesside County Court that although the school did have processes in place to deal with bullying, it was the claimants' cases that they were not followed - despite both pupils making complaints to staff.

Miss Newby claimed ?50,000 for psychological injury and Mr Bright a similar sum for psychological and physical injuries.

Recorder Julian Goose, QC, said: "We all know what bullying is, we all know it when we see it.

"At worst it is violent, it is undoubtedly a threat of emotional or physical harm by the strong to the weak. It can be as subtle as a look or social exclusion.

"I have come to the clear conclusion on the evidence that both the first and second claimant were for various periods the subject of bullying.

"Most of the incidents of bullying occurred inside the school premises.

"That bullying clearly caused distress and anxiety.

"Anyone listening to the claimant's evidence could only understand the difficulties they went through and have sympathy for them."

Miss Newby told the court that for two years she was tormented by a group of eight girls starting in 1994 when she was 12.

The gang made her life a misery by shouting and swearing at her, repeatedly tripping her up and spitting at her.

And Mr Bright told how he was repeatedly punched and was even knocked unconscious on one occassion.

Miss Newby broke down within seconds of giving evidence. She claimed the school did little to ease her suffering - and what little it did do was too late.

At one point, she said, she found herself in a meeting with a teacher and the bullies when she was aged 13.

Miss Newby told the court: "The teacher asked them 'are you bullying Caroline?'

They said no. The teacher left me in the room with them. One said 'I am going to get you, you ****,it is the worst thing you could have ever done'."

Miss Newby said she was bullied by eight girls and still keeps 50mg of anti-depressants at home now - eight years later - just in case she suffers more problems.

She is now on a specialist computer course for people with nervous problems and hopes to qualify to become a receptionist.

Both Miss Newby and Jamie Bright claim that months of cruelty went virtually unchecked when they were separately in Year eight in 1993 and 1994.

Mr Bright claimed his suffering began when he was 12 and included:

Two pupils punching him in class and the teacher advising him to shake hands and make up with his assailants, being attacked in the school grounds, being thrown down a bank and jumped upon and pupils setting fire to his wax jacket in a chemistry lesson.

Mr Bright said he was kicked, punched and sworn at on an almost daily basis and was "intimidated, humiliated and upset" after he was removed from class instead of the bullies.

He told the court: "I had been taken out of the class and it should not have been me, it should have been the bullies out of the class.

"It made me feel like I had done something wrong."

And Jamie told how he had begun to lose faith in his parents after he repeatedly told them of his bullying hell.

He broke down in tears as he said: "I started to lose respect for my mum and dad because every time they told me to go back to school, they said it would be fine and it wasn't."

Eventually, Mr Bright's mother Doreen became so concerned she took the issue up with her MP John Cummings.

Miss Newby told the court that the bullying had left her "anxious and scared", and reached its worst in May 1995 when she was admitted to hospital for four days suffering stress-related abdominal pains and stomach problems.

The school, she said, called a meeting between her and the bullies where they denied the accusations and were left alone in the room together.

She told the court: "One girl said 'I'm going to get you.' This was the worst thing you could have done'."

The claims were challenged by the governors of the school and Durham County Council who said they had done everything they could to protect Caroline and Jamie.

The authorities say they have bullying policies in place both at local education authority (LEA) and school level.

The LEA policy is to recognise victims, listen to them, talk seriously with them about the action to be taken and the timescale it will be taken over.

Philip Cramer, for the ex pupils, said the school's strategy related to recording of complaints, recording of the victims and the bullies with details being given to the head of school.

Victims were also offered a safe area outside of class time under school bullying policies, the court heard.

Mr Cramer said the guidelines showed efforts should have been made to keep victims in school and the bully should be the one suffering disruption. "The reverse happened in this case."

But Mr Recorder Goose, QC, speaking about Miss Newby's case, said: "There were in my judgement steps to remove the threat of the bullying as much as possible while at the same time keeping the claimant in school.

"Much was in fact being done to help the first claimant. It may not have been enough to satisfy Mr and Mrs Newby or Caroline herself as she has come to think but it was a concerted effort to keep her at school and the threat away from her.

"I am satisfied the school did its best to help and keep the claimant at school."

Speaking of Mr Bright's case, the judge said: "I cannot conclude that the defendants were negligent.

"I am satisfied these claimants were from time to time and for long periods the subject of behaviour that can be described as bullying."

After the case Diane Brough, solicitor for both families, said: "Both claimants are extremely disappointed with the judgement, they have no regrets at all about bringing the claim.

"The judge found that there was serious and sustained incidents of bullying and both claimants are pleased that the public will have the opportunity through media reports to see what has been going on at the school and draw their own conclusions.

"Other children may not suffer in the way the claimants have by being aware of the problems.

"Their advice to other children, who are suffering bullying would be to be suire to learn by their mistakes and report it promptly, name names and ensure the school does something there and then to assist them."