Belfast Telegraph

Many abuse victims have died waiting for compensation, court told

Up to 30 people subjected to historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland have died since compensation payments were recommended more than two years ago, the High Court heard today.

A judge was told the deaths are continuing among elderly survivors of physical and sexual ill-treatment while branches of government "pass the parcel" over responsibility for implementing the redress scheme.

Details were also disclosed of the beatings and molestation endured by one man who is challenging the continued failure to make the pay-outs.

Now in his seventies and identified only as JR80, he is seeking to have the Secretary of State compelled to act on the the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry's recommendations.

In 2017 Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart published a report recommending compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 to 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 at Stormont since devolution collapsed, 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.

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

"There is a political hiatus in Northern Ireland but not a legal hiatus," he insisted.

"Government may be dysfunctional but the legal system isn't. There cant be a vacuum in governance."

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".

Counsel said he had been told that 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 aged around seven.

"I was too young to know what was happening or why. 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 siblings and didn't see them again during his time there, the court heard.

"Every day there felt like a year," JR80 stated.

He suffered physical, sexual and psychological abuse, involving frequent assaults and witnessing even worse violence being 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 sexual abused by a man who came to the home.

"I found separation from my brothers unbearable, I didn't know where they were and missed them terribly," he added.

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 alone in suffering that kind of systematic abuse - countless other children were allowed by the state to suffer a similar fate."

The HIA recommendations have now been subject to 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.

But in the absence of devolution, counsel contended that there was a legal obligation to take steps without any further delay.

"The court has to decide how the scheme should work in the distorted circumstances that have now been allowed to exist and which were frankly unimaginable two years ago."

Later, it was confirmed that the head of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland intends to ask the Secretary of State to put draft legislation dealing with the redress scheme before Parliament.

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

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

Mr Justice McCloskey noted that 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, of 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."

The hearing continues.

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