Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley facing new legal action over abuse compensation failure

Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Secretary of State Karen Bradley

By Alan Erwin

Northern Ireland's Secretary of State is facing renewed legal action over the ongoing failure to introduce compensation for survivors of historical abuse.

A solicitor for elderly victims confirmed they are seeking to overturn a ruling that Karen Bradley's stance in the absence of a Stormont Executive is not unlawful.

Claire McKeegan said: "A notice of appeal of the decision of the High Court has been served on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Executive Office.

"The appellant will be seeking an expedited hearing of this urgent matter."

Proceedings are being taken by a man in his seventies, identified only as JR80, in a bid to have Mrs Bradley compelled to implement a redress scheme for institutional abuse victims.

Last month a judge dismissed his initial judicial review challenge after describing the continued political vacuum as defective and damaging for society, but not unconstitutional.

The verdict represented a setback for those fighting to secure the compensation envisaged when a major report into the abuse at children's homes run by religious orders and the state between 1922 and 1995.

Since then Mrs Bradley has come under intense criticism amid demands for her to put draft legislation for compensating victims before Parliament.

She has defended her decision to table questions for Northern Ireland's political parties about the proposed scheme, insisting that she wants the process concluded as quickly as possible.

In 2017 the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry published a report recommending compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 to those who suffered neglect and assaults.

With no functioning Assembly at Stormont since devolution collapsed, JR80's challenge has been aimed at having the Secretary of State and Executive Office compelled to take immediate steps on the pay-outs.

The High Court heard that up to 30 people who suffered abuse have died since the report was issued.

Counsel for JR80 argued that the deaths were continuing amid a complete loss of democratic accountability and  branches of government "pass the parcel" over responsibility for implementing the redress scheme.

He told the court the survivors are enduring a "dystopian nightmare".

Details of the beatings and molestation suffered by JR80 after he was taken to a home at the age of seven were disclosed during the initial hearing.

Lawyers representing the Secretary of State and the Executive Office argued that they had no legal power to intervene over the stalled compensation.

Steps are now underway to secure a fresh hearing at the Court of Appeal as soon as possible.

Margaret McGuckin of the campaign group Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) said:  "We have been let down everywhere we turn. 

"Our people need this redress and our government have failed us continually."

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