Belfast Telegraph

Abuse probe chief wins appeal over victim's legal aid

By Alan Erwin

An historical abuse inquiry chairman has won his appeal against a ruling that he unfairly denied legal representation to an alleged victim.

Sir Anthony Hart was challenging a High Court verdict that a bar had effectively been erected against the woman who claims she was molested by a "very high-profile figure".

Senior judges in Belfast backed his case on the basis that she is not expected to be subjected to critical comments in the tribunal's ultimate findings.

Lord Justice Girvan said: "Against the background of a conclusion that the applicant did not face a likelihood of criticism, the dictates of fairness did not call for legal representation or representation at public expense."

She is due to give evidence at the Historical Institutional Abuse hearings in Banbridge which are investigating child abuse in Northern Ireland residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

The woman behind the legal challenge claims she suffered years of physical, sexual and mental abuse while in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth.

She also separately alleges that a high-profile figure targeted her outside of the home.

Michael Stitt QC, for the woman, stressed how his client faces the prospect of coming face-to-face with the alleged perpetrator without any legal help.

Mr Stitt immediately sought permission to go to the Supreme Court to appeal, arguing there were clear issues of general public importance.

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