Northern Ireland abuse survivors lose compensation case
Failure to compensate victims in absence of Stormont not unlawful, High Court rules
Kate McCausland embraced by Survivors North West Jon McCourt and John Heaney after speaking of her mother Una Irvine outside Belfast’s High Court after a failed bid to force the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley to compensate victims of historical sexual abuse. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley’s ongoing failure to compensate victims of historical abuse in the absence of a Stormont executive is not unlawful, a High Court judge in Belfast has ruled.
An abuse survivor failed in his bid to compel Mrs Bradley to implement stalled redress mechanisms for victims and call an Assembly election.
But Judge Bernard McCloskey opened the door for a further potential challenge if Mrs Bradley does not act on draft legislation on the compensation scheme that has been developed by Stormont civil servants.
He said the current political vacuum was unsatisfactory but it was not unconstitutional.
“The plight of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland illustrates graphically just how damaging this is for certain sections of society,” he said.
The case was taken by an unnamed male victim, who is now in his seventies, known to the court as JR80.
He was challenging the lack of action on recommendations by a state inquiry into historical institutional abuse in the region.
The proposals put forward by the HIA inquiry, chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, are mired in uncertainty due to the Stormont impasse.
They were published just as the DUP/Sinn Fein-led executive was imploding in January 2017, so no elected local ministers have been able to take action.
A public consultation on the proposed shape of the compensation scheme closed last month, but the plans cannot be implemented without intervention by the UK Government.
The HIA inquiry studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 and 1995. There were 76 homes that operated during that time and abuse victims from all of them would be eligible to apply for compensation.
The inquiry recommended compensation payouts ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 for victims.
Members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster have written to Mrs Bradley urging her to intervene and legislate for compensation.