Child Abuse Victim To Sue

A VICTIM of child abuse at care homes in Wales is seeking compensation after a landmark House of Lords ruling.

Eight years ago a report by the UK’s biggest inquiry into child abuse said young people in North Wales care homes had suffered “appalling mistreatment”.

Some victims were later told they could not sue for compensation because more than six years had elapsed since the offences.

Last month the House of Lords ruled that a rape victim could sue her attacker, National Lottery winner Iorworth Hoare, despite being out of time. Hoare won £7m while on day release from prison and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle after being released in 2005.

The Law Lords said High Court judges could exercise discretion over time limits where cases involved abuse.

They also gave the go-ahead for four alleged sex-abuse victims to sue despite being out of time.

The ruling could pave the way for many abuse survivors to claim compensation.

Previously they were unable to bring a claim more than six years after the offence or, in cases of child abuse, more than six years after the victim reached 18.

Steve Messham, who says he was physically and sexually abused at three homes in Wrexham and one in Neath while in local authority care, was one of 650 witnesses at the four-year North Wales abuse inquiry.

When he tried to sue afterwards, he was told he was too late. He had left care in December 1980, two days before his 18th birthday.

Now he plans to appeal against that ruling and sue authorities, but says he has to represent himself in his Lords appeal.

“The way the legal aid system has been changed, I can’t get legal aid. The lawyers want too much money. I’ve got to do it myself or find a law firm that will do it pro bono,” said Mr Messham, 45, of Flintshire.

He said the Lords had put right a flaw in the legal system, which had presumed young people knew they could sue abusers.

“I want justice. Things were reported in 1977, 78 and 79 but victims weren’t given any advice. The police admitted interviewing me three times at Bryn Estyn (children’s home in Wrexham). Why wasn’t I given the right advice?”

Despite the time limit, some victims had won compensation, £20,000 to £100,000. Some had settled out of court for £3,000 after being told their cases would fail because of the time limit.