Belfast Telegraph

Civil Service head urges Bradley to ensure payouts for victims of institutional abuse

Legislation call: David Sterling
Legislation call: David Sterling

By Alan Erwin

The head of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland is to ask the Secretary of State to put draft legislation before Parliament to ensure people subjected to historical institutional abuse finally receive compensation.

Up to 30 victims have died since compensation payments were recommended by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry more than two years ago, the High Court heard yesterday.

A judge was told survivors of physical and sexual ill-treatment continue to die as branches of government "pass the parcel" over responsibility for implementing the redress scheme. The recommendations have now been subject to consultation, and draft legislation drawn up.

Yesterday it was confirmed that Civil Service chief David Sterling intends to ask Karen Bradley to put the draft legislation before MPs.

The request is expected to be made following an analysis of the consultation process over Easter.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Secretary of State, said a similar step has already been taken on issues such as tariff rates for Renewable Heat Incentive boilers.

Mr Justice McCloskey said it will then become a "quintessentially political judgment" about whether to act on the request.

"How deserving are members of this cohort, how long should this void continue for them, and to what extent, if any, would Westminster intervention have an impact on the restoration of government in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Would it provide some incentive to the warring parties or do the opposite - encourage them to continue their warring." In 2017 a report by HIA Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart recommended compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 for those who suffered neglect and abuse at children's homes run by religious orders and the state between 1922 to 1995.

With no functioning Assembly 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.

Earlier in court details were disclosed of the beatings and molestation endured by one man who is challenging the continued failure to make the pay-outs.

Now in his 70s, he is identified only as JR80.

Opening the case for JR80, Barry Macdonald QC claimed there has been a complete loss of democratic accountability.

"Government may be dysfunctional but the legal system isn't. There can't be a vacuum in governance," he said.

As some of those abused in children's homes listened in the public gallery, Mr Macdonald said others who gave evidence at the Hart tribunal are "literally dying".

He said he had been told between 25 and 30 survivors have died since the inquiry ended.

During the hearing details of JR80's childhood experiences were recounted.

In a statement he recalled being taken to a home when he was about seven.

"I simply remember being out with my two brothers picking blackberries, being put in a car and taken to the home." He was separated from his brothers and didn't see them again in his time there, the court heard.

He suffered physical, sexual and psychological abuse, involving frequent assaults and saw even worse violence inflicted on others. Beatings were meted out for wetting the bed, according to his account, leaving him frightened to go to sleep every night.

He also described being sexually abused by a man who came to the home.

When he finally left the home and was reunited with his brothers they never discussed what had happened to them.

Mr Macdonald stressed: "The applicant was not alone in suffering that kind of systematic abuse - countless other children were allowed by the state to suffer a similar fate."

The hearing continues.

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