Child abuse survivor succeeds in claim against Cardiff City Council

October 22, 2015
Dino Nocivelli - Solicitor in the Child Abuse Team

Posted by: Dino Nocivelli


We are happy to report that one of our clients has recently succeeded in a compensation claim for injuries suffered at the hands of a support worker employed by Cardiff City Council for childhood sexual abuse.

Background – the abuse

Our client was neglected and physically assaulted by his mother as a child in Cardiff and a support worker called Geoffrey Morris was therefore assigned by Cardiff City Council to protect him when he was about 12 years old.

In one of the most despicable breaches of trust possible, Morris went on to sexually abuse our client on a nearly daily basis from the age of about 12 to 15 years old at our client’s family home and predominantly in his bedroom.

Our client disclosed his abuse to a friend when he was 15 years old and his friend also reported he had been abused.  The police were informed and they prosecuted Morris.  He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting our client and a number of other children in 1996 and he was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court to a total of 3 years and 8 months imprisonment.

The impact of the abuse

The abuse had a substantial impact on our client’s life.  He continues to date to suffer from low self-confidence and he finds it difficult to trust people, both of which affected his relationships and his ability to retain friends.  He suffered from intrusive thoughts about the abuse and he previously self-harmed which now serve as a reminder of the abuse.

Our client attempted suicide on a number of occasions and he spent a number of years homeless as a result of the shame and self-blame that he felt about the abuse.  Our client’s education and earning capacity were impacted due to the abuse according to a psychiatrist that we instructed to examine our client.  Our psychiatrist also stated that our client’s excessive alcohol consumption was as a result of the abuse he suffered.

Our involvement – pursing a compensation claim

Although you can report a crime at any time to the police, you generally have to bring a civil compensation claim within 3 years of the assault or by your 21st birthday, whichever is later.  Our client was in his 30s and therefore substantially out of time to bring a claim.  The courts can look behind the time limit however in exceptional circumstances and we intended to rely on Morris’ criminal conviction as evidence that a fair trial was still possible.  Despite the inherent difficulties of the case, we agreed to act on the basis of a no win, no fee agreement.

We faced substantial hurdles to prove that a fair trial was still possible and that the Council’s case had not been harmed due to the delay in bringing a civil compensation claim.  We soon discovered that only a few notes existed from our client’s police statement and we therefore had to take instructions from our client about his abuse and as Morris had not been convicted of all of the offences against our client, we knew that we would have to prove that all of the acts of abuse had in fact taken place.  Although we are based in London, we travelled to Cardiff on a number of occasions to meet our client to discuss his case.

After considering the best way to proceed with our client’s case, we decided to pursue Morris’ employer, Cardiff City Council.  It was clear to us that Morris had used his position as a support worker to obtain access to our client before manipulating him and then sexually abusing him.  As a result, we felt the Council were responsible for the abuse as they had failed to supervise Morris even though he had daily interaction with young children.

Successful conclusion

The Council initially stated our client’s case was out of time and therefore should not proceed.  They also denied they were responsible for the actions of Morris but they also denied he was our client’s support worker and they instead alleged he must have been an acquaintance of our client’s mother.  Our client was adamant in his instructions that Morris was his support worker and we therefore applied to court to demand a copy of our client’s entire file of social services records as the Council had struggled to provide us with the same.

After successfully obtaining a Court order, we received a substantial amount of records from the Council.  After carefully reviewing these documents it was clear to us that the Council had not only employed Morris as a support worker but that they had also employed him to care for our client as a support worker.  We were therefore adamant that the Council should be held responsible for the actions of Morris and the Council admitted the same.

We arranged a meeting with the Council’s legal representatives in Cardiff and we were able to reach a successful six-figure settlement for our client and payment of his legal costs.  This was a significant result for our client as he felt he had obtained a sense of closure that he had been denied by the criminal justice system.  The compensation has enabled our client to look towards the future in a more positive manner and to finally obtain the psychiatric and employment support that he requires to improve his standard of living.

I am a Senior Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in Child Abuse claims. If you think you may have a claim, contact me free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4887 or at dinonocivelli@boltburdonkemp.co.uk for specialist legal advice. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Child Abuse team will contact you. You can find out more about the team here.

Posted by: Dino Nocivelli

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