Belfast Telegraph

Historical Abuse Inquiry: Alleged victim refused copy of her child abuse statement

A woman who says she was molested at a children's home has lost a legal battle to obtain a copy of her private statement to the Historical Abuse Inquiry.

Court of Appeal judges upheld a decision that she has no right to be provided with a recording of her account to a panel.

Emphasising the need for confidentiality, Lord Justice Gillen ruled there was no basis for declaring the refused disclosure unreasonable or unfair.

He said: "The grim truth is that if it were to become commonplace for such recordings to be provided, with all the attendant risks of such material innocently or otherwise getting into the public domain, we can readily see the deleterious effect this might have on the process as a whole."

The woman, who cannot be identified, claims to have been subjected to physical and psychological abuse at Nazareth House in Belfast during years she spent there in the 1970s.

She has commenced civil proceedings seeking damages over her alleged treatment.

In November 2012 she gave evidence confidentially and in private to an Acknowledgment Forum (AF) at the inquiry set up to investigate child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland.

The AF, which operates as a separate body within the tribunal, gives victims and survivors an opportunity to recount their experiences on a confidential basis.

It is to produce a report of their experiences and all records are to be destroyed after the Inquiry is concluded.

With no official statement taken, the woman was seeking a recording of what she told the AF.

All requests were refused due to the need to protect the confidentiality of the process.

Lawyers for the woman argued there could be no breach because it was her own evidence being sought.

But backing an earlier High Court verdict, the three appeal judges described the task facing the Inquiry as "daunting".

Lord Justice Gillen said: "The issues upon which it has to deliberate are matters of great sensitivity and profound public concern.

"The perception of confidentiality is not only necessary to establish public confidence in the Inquiry but, equally importantly, to ensure that victims and survivors will feel confident enough to make themselves known and approach the AF stage at least with utter faith in the confidentiality of that part of the process."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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