Decision soon on abuse victims’ compensation case, says judge

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A legal challenge to the ongoing failure to compensate survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland will be determined within weeks, a High Court judge has pledged.

Mr Justice McCloskey indicated there can be no further delays in proceedings aimed to compelling the secretary of state to implement a major inquiry’s recommendations.

He confirmed that a two-day hearing will go ahead next week, with a verdict to be delivered immediately after the Easter recess.

“The time has come to bite the bullet and hear the case,” he said.

The challenge has been brought by one victim, referred to as JR80, on behalf of those molested in children’s homes.

In 2017 the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry concluded there should be a public apology to all who suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse between 1922 to 1995, and compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000.

Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart has since made repeated pleas to politicians to act on his recommendations and provide the financial, social and educational support as a matter of urgency.

With no functioning Assembly at Stormont, legal action is being taken in a bid to have the secretary of state and Executive Office ordered to take immediate steps to implement the redress scheme.

The HIA recommendations have also been the subject of a consultation process, and draft legislation drawn up.

Amid the ongoing uncertainty Dr Andrew Murrison MP, chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, has written to Secretary of State Karen Bradley suggesting laws necessary to implement those recommendation should be brought through Westminster.

In court on Wednesday Mr Justice McCloskey acknowledged the possibility of future developments.

However, he pointed out that the case was now a year old.

The judge also noted the HIA redress scheme had proposed financially compensating victims before the end of 2017.

“That recommendation was made over two years ago and those recommendations have not been activated,” he said.

After listing the case for hearing he added: “The court will be giving judgment immediately following the Easter vacation.”

Outside court Margaret McGuckin of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) claimed: “The government still believes that we are second-class citizens.

“Survivors and victims are not a priority in their eyes.”

Solicitor Claire McKeegan, representing JR80, stressed the urgency of the case.

“Everyone is aware that victims and survivors still suffer and cannot move on in their life until this matter is properly resolved,” she said.

“Some will never get to see a resolution therefore the urgency is palpable.”

Ms McKeegan added: “Given the ongoing vacuum in governance it is important that this matter clarifies who currently has the responsibility to take decisions.

“The lack of government in Northern Ireland is not a justification for delay, nor is the current piecemeal approach to governance coming from Westminster.”