Successful child abuse case against Cardiff Council and Newport Council despite no criminal prosecution
I have successfully represented a client in an action against Cardiff County Council and Newport City Council for childhood sexual abuse which took place at two children’s homes within their responsibility. The perpetrators both held managerial positions at the homes.
Evidential difficulties: no criminal conviction for abuse against my client
My client suffered significant sexual abuse between the ages of about 12 and 16, during the years 1977 and 1981. The abuse took place when my client was resident at Bryn y Don children’s home and then afterwards while he was at Ty Mawr children’s home. My client had been placed into the care of the local authorities due to neglect that he had suffered within his family. My client suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Barrie Alden and Dereck Brushett, both of whom held managerial roles at the respective children’s homes. My client was also abused by others who worked at the children’s homes but a number had passed away or were too ill to stand trial, and he could not identify the true identities of some of his abusers.
Both abusers used my client’s vulnerability as a child placed in a children’s home to abuse him. Their jobs enabled them to abuse my client for many years, without detection. My client was too afraid to tell anyone about the abuse when he was a child as he worried people would not believe him. Instead, his behaviour deteriorated as he developed issues with those in authority and he frequently ran away from the children’s homes.
My client reported his abuse to the police in 2016 but they informed him they were unable to proceed against a number of his abusers as my client could not remember some of their true identities, a number of them had died, and some were no longer fit to stand trial. The police also felt that my client’s criminal record, his poor recollection of the abuse and his aggressive demeanour would make him a poor witness in court proceedings and this would significantly reduce any prospect of convictions. For these reasons, the police concluded that they could not press charges. However, Alden and Brushett had been convicted for child abuse offences against others, so there was some history of proven allegations against them.
Given that my client could not pursue a criminal action, he then looked into whether he could bring a civil claim and contacted my firm to see if we could help him. The lack of any police conviction in respect of the allegations raised by my client meant that we would have to prove all of the alleged incidents of abuse had, on the balance of probabilities, taken place. This certainly increased the risks of any civil claim succeeding against the abusers or their employers and we would have to rely on the previous criminal convictions against Alden and Brushett for child abuse offences, as similar fact evidence to support my client’s case.
Pursing a civil compensation claim against the employers
I was concerned about pursuing my client’s abusers directly for compensation as there was a real risk that, if my client’s claim was successful, the abusers who were still alive would not have enough money or assets to pay compensation to him, while some others had passed away a number of years ago and their estates would have likely already been distributed.
Given that the abuse which my client suffered took place at children’s homes where he was resident, it was possible to make a case against the councils who ran those homes on the basis that they were responsible for their employee’s actions so we decided to bring claims against Cardiff Council and Newport Council who were responsible for the management of the children’s homes in question.
It was clear to me that the abusers had used their positions as managers in children’s homes to obtain access to my client to sexually abuse him, sadly along with many others. The Councils were equally responsible for the abuse as they had failed to supervise the abusers even though they were employed to look after and care for the young vulnerable children in their charge.
Successful conclusion’s positive impact on my client’s life
I am glad to report that I was able to settle my client’s case for a substantial sum of compensation in February 2017.
My client struggled to disclose his abuse for the vast majority of his life and this placed a massive strain on his personal relationships. My client had also tried to engage in psychiatric therapy to help him come to terms with the impact of the abuse but he had really struggled and it had not been terribly success because of the limited support available to him in his local area.
The successful conclusion of his case was a major turning point for my client as he felt someone with responsibility, i.e. the Councils, finally accepted that the abuse he had suffered had taken place, and that it had had a huge impact on his life. My client felt vindicated by the Councils’ acknowledgement that they had failed him as a child and he knows that his civil case will help to protect other children in the future from ever having to suffer the sexual abuse that he was forced to suffer as a child.
The successful conclusion of his case has provided real closure for my client and it has given him a sense of justice having been delivered. He now feels he has the ability to move forward with his life despite the lack of a criminal conviction.
Dino Nocivelli is a partner in the Abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Dino free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4887 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Abuse team will contact you. Find out more about the Abuse Team.