Victims of Northern Ireland child abuse ‘should get up to £100k compensation’

Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart chaired an independent panel

Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart chaired an independent panel

Victims of historic child abuse in Northern Ireland should receive state-backed compensation payments of up to £100,000, an inquiry has recommended.

Those abused in state, church and charity run homes should also be offered an official apology from government and the organisations that ran the residential facilities where it happened, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry found.

Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart outlined a series of recommendations after he revealed shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the period 1922 to 1995.

He said the minimum pay-out should be £7,500 with the maximum amount given to those who had experienced severe levels of abuse as well as being transported to Australia in a controversial migrant scheme.

He said the organisations that ran the abusing homes should make a financial contribution to the Stormont Executive-run scheme.

Sir Anthony said the four-year inquiry found “evidence of systemic failings” in the institutions and homes it investigated.

“There was evidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and unacceptable practices across the institutions and homes examined,” he said.

“The inquiry also identified failings where institutions sought to protect their reputations and individuals against whom allegations were made, by failing to take any action at all, failing to report matters to or deliberately misleading the appropriate authorities and moving those against whom allegations were made to other locations.

“This enabled some to continue perpetrating abuse against children.

“The inquiry found that those institutions that sent young children to Australia were wrong to do so and there were failures to ensure the children were being sent to suitable homes.”

The HIA report also rejected long-standing allegations that a paedophile ring containing British Establishment figures abused boys in the notorious Kincora boys’ home in Belfast.

It also dismissed claims that intelligence agencies were aware of such a ring and covered it up in order to blackmail the high-profile abusers.

Three staff members at Kincora were found guilty of abusing residents in the 1970s but there had long been rumours that others, including civil servants and businessmen, were involved.

Sir Anthony said the notion that Kincora was a homosexual “brothel” used by the Security Services as a “honey pot” to obtain compromising information about influential figures was without foundation.

The investigation also focused on the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

During evidence sessions the inquiry heard lurid details about the activities of the serial child molester who frequented Catholic residential homes and was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges.

Sir Anthony said despite knowing his history of abusing children, the Norbertine religious order moved Smyth to different diocese where he abused more children.

They failed to report the abuse to police “enabling him to continue his abuse”, it found. The Order also failed to take steps to expel him from priesthood, said the inquiry.

The fate of Sir Anthony’s compensation recommendation is mired in a degree of uncertainty, given the recent Stormont crisis has resulted in the collapse of the current powersharing executive.

The retired judge said the redress scheme needed to be set up as a “matter of urgency”.

He also recommended that the Northern Ireland Executive should create a body called the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Redress Board.

The board would receive and process claims and payments, said the chairman.

The inquiry also recommended that a “suitable physical memorial” should be erected in Parliament Buildings in Belfast or in the grounds of Stormont estate.

It also called for the creation of a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse to offer victims support and assistance.

It recommended the provision of extra state funding to provide specialist care for victims.