Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Abuse victims allowed to sue after Court of Session time bar ruling

A recent ruling in the Court of Session by Lord McEwan on the status of time bar with regard to sexual abuse cases, could help many more victims bring civil actions for child abuse.

Perhaps the court could apply this ruling to a few more issues, and do away with time bar on many appalling cases ...

The Herald reports :

Victims are given chance to sue over abuse

DAVID LEASK February 26 2008

A Scottish judge has lifted a time bar in a landmark case that could help unblock thousands of potential civil actions for childhood abuse.

Lord McEwan, in a Court of Session decision, has allowed a 43-year-old Glasgow man to sue the city's council over sexual abuse he claims to have endured at the hands of a carer in a children's home.

The move, understood to be one of the first of its kind in Scottish legal history, comes after Law Lords earlier this year struck down a time bar preventing a victim of rapist Iorworth Hoare from suing him after he won £7m on the National Lottery.

Council lawyers deny the allegations made by the alleged Glasgow victim but also said they believed his claims were time-barred.

Lord McEwan said his case should go to a full hearing. The judge said that, although the alleged abuse dated from the 1970s, the man began to suffer psychological effects only decades later and was therefore still entitled to claim.

Lord McEwan said: "Whatever is said about the abuse, it is clear that no claim is being made for the assaults which, given his age at the time, are serious enough.

"The only issue is the psychiatric damaged suffered from about June 2001."

The judge cited the House of Lords decision in the Hoare case. "It is, of course, based on slightly different legislation but appears to encourage more cases being allowed to proceed under the discretionary provisions," he said.

The Glasgow man's lawyer, Cameron Fyfe, is a litigator at Ross Harper who represents nearly 1000 victims of childhood abuse. Mr Fyfe said: "This is very important for us because it is the first time we have succeeded in arguing that the time bar should not apply in historic abuse cases."

Mr Fyfe's client said he was abused in the 1970s at the now-shut Eversley home in Pollokshields, Glasgow. His alleged abuser is thought to have left the country. The alleged victim claims he was beaten for lying when he reported the abuse. Several members of Eversley staff have been investigated for alleged sex offences against children. One, John Marshall, was jailed for life in 2006 for sexually abusing 16 children.

The alleged victim said he had blocked out memories of his abuse for two decades. He was not a victim of John Marshall. A married father of five, he is claiming £25,000 after developing what his doctors say is post-traumatic stress disorder when allegations about Eversley surfaced in 2001.

Yesterday he said: "All I want is to see this man in court. I want to know how people can do things that are as twisted as that."

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "We are appealing against this decision and it would be inappropriate to comment."

and in another case, a woman at the centre of one of Scotlands most famous child abuse cases has won legal aid to sue, reports the Scotsman :

Woman wins legal aid to sue over child abuse scandal


A WOMAN at the centre of Scotland's most notorious child sex-abuse scandal has won her battle for legal aid to sue Orkney Islands Council for £100,000.

The landmark case will shine a spotlight on the Orkney scandal in the 1990s, when 17 children were snatched in dawn raids from their South Ronaldsay homes and taken into local- authority care.

It was alleged the children, aged between eight and 15, had been the victims of ritual abuse, and that there was a paedophile ring operating on the island.

The case is being brought by May Willsher, 25, who was eight when social workers removed her from the family home in November 1990. She claims her childhood was destroyed when she was needlessly put in care.

A sheriff later ruled the social workers' evidence was seriously flawed and the children were returned to their homes.

Ms Willsher, who now lives in England, said she had been the victim of a witch hunt by overzealous social workers who were determined to break up her family. She claims she was sexually abused while in foster care, and is seeking damages from Orkney and Shetland social work department.

"We kept telling them that we had not been abused, but they wouldn't listen," she said. "A massive injustice has been done to my family and they have to rectify that. I'm so pleased that we have got legal aid and I'm looking forward to having my day in court."

Sheriff David Kelbie, who threw out the original case, said the children had been subjected to cross-examinations designed to make them admit to being abused.

The scandal resulted in a judicial inquiry by Lord Clyde, who criticised social workers, police and childcare agencies.

Ms Willsher insists no family abuse took place and remains deeply critical of the interview techniques used. She says she was under intense pressure from social workers to give them the "evidence" they wanted.

Cameron Fyfe, her solicitor, said she had suffered severe emotional damage as a result of the six years she spent in care.

"This is an opportunity for all the facts to come out," Mr Fyfe said. "Ms Willsh
er will give evidence about the way social workers handled the case."

Orkney Islands Council declined to comment on the case yesterday.

Last month, Ms Willsher urged MSPs to ditch a law that places a three-year "time-bar" on damages claims involving young victims. Legal experts are now expecting the "time-bar" rule to be swept aside following a recent House of Lords judgment.

Under Scots law, personal- injuries claims can be lodged only within three years of the incident occurring. When the victims are children, claims must be made within three years of their 16th birthday.

But the hopes of abuse victims were revived by a law lords' ruling last month involving the "Lotto rapist" Iorworth Hoare. The House of Lords ruled that a woman whose life was ruined following an attempted rape by Hoare now has the right to pursue a damages claim against him, despite the time limit.

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