New group legal move on past abuse in Manchester children’s homes

More than 150 people have joined a group legal action over alleged child abuse at homes run by Manchester Council.

An application to the High Court for a group litigation order against the authority was made on 2 February by leading child abuse solicitors Abney Garsden McDonald.

The application follows a successful group action undertaken in March 2007 concerning allegations of abuse stretching over the past 40 years that were uncovered during an investigation into children’s care homes by Greater Manchester Police. The authority was ordered to pay more than £2.2m in compensation to 168 former care home residents.

Out of court agreement

But according to lead solicitor Peter Garsden, who is also president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, the council then reneged on an agreement to settle further claims of abuse out of court. This means that scores of people who missed the cut-off point to join the original legal suit would be forced to bring cases individually in order to sue for compensation.

“Because of the number of victims of serious physical and sexual abuse who have come forward from children’s homes run by Manchester City Council we have decided to start another group,” Garsden said.

“We hope that the legal proceedings we are issuing will encourage the council to change its policy, and not prolong the inevitable suffering the survivors have to endure.”

Law changes

Changes to the law made in January 2008 allow abuse victims to claim extra compensation for “aggravated, exemplary, and/or punitive damages”, meaning that the council could face a higher payout claim than it did as a result of the first group action.

A council spokesperson said: “In view of the application for the group action legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further upon this matter at this point in time.”
The original police investigation, codename Operation Cleopatra, ran from 1997 to 2002 and covered 66 council-run and independent children’s care homes. Officers recorded allegations of abuse perpetrated by 536 individuals. Six men, including employees and former employees of Manchester Council, were successfully prosecuted for the systematic abuse of children in their care.

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