Appeal Court child abuse ruling may open door for claimants

Lawyers say an Appeal Court ruling on the time limitations for civil cases involving child abuse allegations has made it easier for people claiming to have suffered sexual abuse to pursue damages.


In late July, the Court of Appeal lifted the time limitation for two clients of child abuse lawyers Abney Garsden McDonald, who are pursuing Nugent Care for damages over alleged sexual abuse at its St Aidan’s home in Widnes from 1968 to 1980. However, one other claimant failed in his bid to remove the time limit.


The decision follows House of Lords rulings that give judges more discretion in extending the three-year limitation on making claims over sexual abuse. The limitation period starts on a claimant’s 18th birthday.


Abuse claims


One of the successful claimants, JPM, arrived at St Aidan’s in May 1967 after being convicted of housebreaking. He claims he was abused by three members of staff from November 1967 to May 1968, but only began talking about the abuse in 1996, to his GP.


The two men are among 40 clients of Abney Garsden McDonald seeking damages for alleged sexual abuse at St Aidan’s and the St Vincent’s home in Formby, which was also run by Nugent. Both homes are closed, and around 40 claimants have already successfully sued for damages.


Paul Durkin, co-ordinating solicitor at Abney Garsden McDonald, said claims would proceed in “batches of eight” so they could move forward quickly.


Damages of up to £60,000


He said some claimants had previously settled for around £4,000 to prevent cases from dragging on, while others had received as much as £60,000 in damages.


The claims against the former Nugent Care homes follow Merseyside Police’s Operation Care investigation into allegations of historical child abuse, which launched in 1996.


However, the police faced criticism that they had “trawled” for witnesses, and the then Southampton Football Club manager Dave Jones, now manager of Cardiff City, who was charged with sexual abuse as part of the inquiry, was found to be not guilty after a trial in Liverpool in 2000.


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