Victims of sex abuse in Catholic children’s homes set to win damages
‘Vulnerable’ claimant showed ‘incredible endurance’ in pursuing group’s case for 21 years to its conclusion at the high court
One of the longest-running legal cases in UK history, centred on systemic sexual abuse at children’s homes in the north-west of England, is poised to end after a judge found in favour of two men who claimed they had been sexually assaulted while in care.
A judgment handed down in the high court on Friday determined that the men had been abused while in the care of the Nugent Care Society, formerly Catholic Social Services, in Liverpool. It also cast doubt on the testimony by two former staff members at the homes who had denied the men’s claims.
The allegations centred on sexual abuse between 1968 and 1982 at two children’s homes for juvenile offenders, St Aidan’s and St Vincent’s, both in Liverpool, which have now closed.
The homes became notorious following high-profile court cases in the mid-1990s that resulted in criminal convictions for a number of paedophiles who had worked at them. One member of staff, Alan Langshaw, was jailed for 10 years while Colin Dick, a care worker, received four years.
Following the criminal cases, an action for damages was started that originally featured more than 100 claimants. Some of the claimants have settled and some have since died, while others killed themselves.
But following Friday’s judgment, lawyers appointed by insurers acting on behalf of the former operator of the care homes announced that they will now seek to settle the 24 outstanding claims.
“The defendants have indicated they are going to settle this group action, which has been going on for 13 years,” said Paul Durkin, a solicitor with Abney Garsden McDonald, who represented the two men.
Durkin said the defendants had engaged in “attitritional litigation” and had fought tooth and nail to deny the men’s claims. “They threw much money at their defence,” said Durkin, who acknowledged that the case could offer guidance to other sexual abuse victims.
The two men received £12,000 and £45,000 respectively in damages, plus interest, but Durkin said the action was not about money. “It was about their need for someone to recognise that as children they were wronged,” he said.
Legal wranglings over whether the men could bring their claims more than 21 years after the abuse complicated proceedings.
Durkin paid tribute to one of his clients – a man known only as JPM – whose case had been heard three times in the high court and twice in the court of appeal without any of his abusers being convicted.
“He is a vulnerable man who has had problems with drink and shoplifting because of what he went through,” Durkin said. “As a child, no one believed what he said. But he stuck with this and has shown incredible endurance. These men suffered the most horrendous sexual abuse. It was systemic and widespread. This will provide them with closure.”