UK Family Law Reform

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Residential care - Abuse victims denied compensation 14th November 2006

Six people who were abused in a major children's home scandal may only get a fraction of the compensation they were awarded after a court ruling earlier this month.

The group were awarded around £200,000 in compensation in 2001 for the abuse they suffered in North Wales children's homes owned by Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Ltd in the 1970s and 1980s.

The victims did not get the money because Bryn Alyn went into voluntary liquidation so they tried to claim compensation from the firm's insurer, Royal & Sun Alliance plc.

But the Court of Appeal ruled on 3 November that they could not get compensation under the insurance policy.

The judges said that the policy did not cover deliberate acts of abuse by people who could be regarded as "the company" for insurance purposes - in this case the managing director, John Allen, and several senior managers and directors at the homes. However, the policy would cover abuse by less senior employees.

One of the group's barristers, Philip Turton, explained that those who had been abused only by Allen would get no compensation, a settlement would have to be determined for those abused by both Allen and other people, while those who had been abused by employees who were not managers or directors should get most of their money.

A date has not yet been set for determining the compensation.

He added that there are few other avenues through which the group could get compensation as the deadline to bring a case through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has passed.

The victims could try to sue individual abusers, but these individuals would be unlikely to have the means to pay the damages.

Peter Garsden, vice president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said the ruling was "scandalous". He said: "As far as other children's home cases are concerned it means cases against private organisations that go into liquidation are going to be more difficult to pursue where the abuser is the managing director or person in charge.

"The irony is that for the abuse to go undiscovered there is often corruption from top to bottom." His firm previously handled a similar case and the victims did not get compensation. He added: "It is hardly just that the victim of an accident at work should receive compensation while the victim of abuse does not."

Allen was convicted of a series of indecent assaults in 1995 and jailed for six years.

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