Historical Abuse

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What is Historical Abuse?

Historical abuse can take many forms but it has become infamous in Ireland in recent years following investigations in to institutional abuse in churches, schools, care homes and similar institutions.

The brave testimony of victims of historical abuse has been pivotal in exposing both the perpetrators of the abuse and those who helped to cover it up. Reports of sexual and physical abuse are most common and have caused significant trauma to victims.

In Northern Ireland, the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 to 1995. These were facilities run by the state, local authorities, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the children’s charity Barnardo’s. The Inquiry lasted from 2014-2016 and was instrumental in uncovering systematic abuse.

Historical abuse in the Republic of Ireland has essentially taken the same form in that it was facilitated by the Catholic Church, schools, local authorities and other state run institutions.

What Legal Action can be Taken?

Victims of historical abuse have a number of options in relation to legal action. The most appropriate form of action will depend on the specific circumstances of each case.

  1. Criminal Action – In order to take criminal action against the perpetrator(s) of abuse you would have to make a complaint to the police. The police would then investigate the matter and ultimately the Public Prosecution Service would make the decision on whether to prosecute. There is a high evidential threshold in criminal cases and the prosecution would be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offences alleged.
  2. Civil Action – a claim for compensation can be made in respect of any pain, suffering, loss of amenity, medical expenses, treatment costs or any loss incurred as a result of being subjected to abuse. Victim’s can also bring claims against institutions or organisations who covered up abuse or who failed to take appropriate action to identify and prevent the abuse.
  3. Public Inquiry – The purpose of a public inquiry is to investigate wrongdoing, to identify who was at fault and to ensure it does not happen again. One of the most positive aspects of a public inquiry is that it encourages victims to tell their stories and this often helps to identify perpetrators. There has already been a public inquiry into historical institutional abuse which investigated institutional abuse from 1922-1995 and published its findings in 2017. There has been no such inquiry to date in the Republic of Ireland.

How We Can Help

Our expert human rights solicitors have a high level of expertise in this area and can advise you on the best approach to take based on the circumstances of your case.

In cases of this nature victims of historical abuse are often in a position where they were owed a duty of care by the institution in which the abuse took place. In these cases, our solicitors will advise you that a claim can be made against a particular institution for breaching this duty. Breach of duty can be alleged in relation to an institutions failure to identify or investigate mistreatment of those under their care.

More victims of historical abuse are coming forward in recent years due to the uncovering of various examples of institutional abuse across Ireland. Our solicitors offer confidential and professional advice on the options available to victims and will take all necessary steps to hold perpetrators of abuse to account.

Contact us for an initial enquiry. We will discuss the funding options which are available to our client’s, including Legal Aid, legal expenses cover and private paying.

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    Historical Abuse was last modified: July 29th, 2021 by Conal McGarrity