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Civil Liberties & Human Rights

Child Abuse Claims

Olivia Coffey
Olivia Coffey
Senior Associate
Sasha Barton
Sasha Barton
Partner
Susie-Labinjoh-2
Susie Labinjoh
Partner
Cormac McDonough
Cormac McDonough
Partner
Maria O'Connell
Maria O’Connell
Partner
Nancy Collins
Nancy Collins
Partner
Ailsa McNeil
Ailsa McNeil
Trainee
Amy Coulter
Amy Coulter
Trainee
Aston Luff
Aston Luff
Solicitor
Brid Doherty
Brid Doherty
Solicitor
Charlotte Sykes
Charlotte Sykes
Solicitor
Claire Brigham
Claire Brigham
Senior Associate
Gimhani Eriyagolla
Gimhani Eriyagolla
Associate
Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell
Solicitor
Hermione Cox
Hermione Cox
Solicitor
Lottie Baldwin
Lottie Baldwin
Solicitor
Megan Finnis
Megan Finnis
Solicitor
Ruth Waters-Falk
Ruth Waters-Falk
Solicitor
Sarah Flanagan
Sarah Flanagan
Associate
Sebastian Del Monte
Sebastian Del Monte
Solicitor
Shakti Bhagwansingh
Shakti Bhagwansingh
Solicitor
Sion Morgan
Sion Morgan
Solicitor

We help individuals that have experienced recent or non-recent child abuse hold their abusers, or those institutions responsible, to account by bringing claims for damages.

If you have experienced abuse, the prospect of bringing a claim for what happened can be a daunting one. We have years of experience in helping survivors of abuse achieve justice and gain a sense of closure for what happened. Bringing a claim for damages may also result in an apology and can be an important step in obtaining validation that what happened was wrong, and should not have happened.

Hodge Jones & Allen- Chambers Top Ranked 2024 Legal 500 uk-top-tier-firm-202

What is Child Abuse?

Childhood abuse can take many forms, such as emotional or psychological abuse, physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse and it can take place in a variety of different settings such as:

  • Children’s Homes
  • Young Offenders Institutions or borstals
  • Schools
  • Religious organisations
  • Hospitals or care homes
  • Charitable organisations such as the Scouts or British Red Cross
  • Cadets
  • At home

 

If you have suffered abuse and would like to make a claim or understand the options available to you, then the first step is to seek advice – and we can help with this. Any conversations will be entirely confidential and we can offer an initial, free, discussion in relation to your options.

It may be that you haven’t spoken with anyone about the abuse you have suffered and the prospect of disclosing your experiences is a terrifying one. People often feel ashamed, guilty or embarrassed by what has happened to them and instead, try and push their memories associated with the abuse to one side – feeling like this is entirely normal and understandable, although we would be clear that anyone who has suffered abuse is absolutely not at any fault.

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Taking action against your abuser or those responsible

You might feel able to report your abuse to the police so that they can investigate it and ultimately, hold your abuser to account through the criminal courts. This is a difficult, but important first step; if they are convicted, it is a way to make sure your abuser is punished and answers for what they have done, and reporting to the police may also mean that others are protected from similar abuse in the future.

The criminal investigation and prosecution of your abuser can be a long, difficult process and we can support you through this. If you feel that the police investigation is not being carried out properly or that an incorrect decision has been made to take no further action against your abuser, then the solicitors in our Civil Liberties & Human Rights Department have a wealth of experience in challenging decisions not to prosecute or failing to carry out proper investigations.

If you have already secured a conviction against your abuser – or the criminal process has finished, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation either directly against your abuser, or against the institution responsible for their actions.

If you have experienced abuse or know someone who has, and wish to bring a claim for compensation and are unsure of the process, then we can provide you with free, confidential, initial advice on the process of reporting to the police, what to expect and your options in bringing a civil claim for damages.

If you would like to speak with someone, please contact Olivia Coffey, a senior associate in the Civil Liberties & Human Rights team. Olivia has many years of experience in acting for survivors of recent and non-recent abuse. She can be contacted directly by emailing ocoffey@hja.net or by calling 0808 296 7694.

Olivia Coffey

If you are still unsure about the process and what to expect but don’t quite feel able to speak with someone, we have set out some answers to a number of frequently asked questions.

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How much is my claim worth?

The amount of damages payable will largely depend on the following:

  • The nature and seriousness of the abuse
  • How the abuse has affected you
  • The cost of any treatment or therapy that is recommended
  • Whether your education or career trajectory has been affected

It is our job to investigate all of the above thoroughly and make sure that we fully understand how you have been impacted by the abuse you suffered.

It might be that an apology is really important to you and this is something that we can also seek on your behalf.

"Excellent. They are knowledgeable, they listen, and they have passion for what they do. They really worked hard on my case and we won because they care."

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How can I fund my case?

We may be able to act for you either on a “no win, no fee” basis or fund your case via legal aid where appropriate.

A “no win, no fee” agreement is formally known as a Conditional Fee Agreement. In summary, if we act for you under a conditional fee agreement and we win your case, then we would look to the Defendant to cover your legal costs. In the event your case is unsuccessful, then providing you have stuck to the terms of your funding agreement, you would not be charged anything at all.

We are happy to discuss funding your case during an initial call and the way in which these funding options work.

If you would like to speak to Olivia, please call
0808 296 7694
or request a callback online.
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Frequently asked questions

What if the abuse happened a long time ago and my case is out of time?

The time limit for bringing a claim for abuse is three years from the date the abuse took place. If you were a child when the abuse occurred, then the time limit would expire on your 21st birthday (that is, three years from the date of your 18th birthday).

The court does however recognise that survivors of abuse find it extremely difficult to speak out against their abusers and disclose their experiences.

In light of this, the court can use its discretion to extend the time limit to bring a claim however there have to be good reasons for doing so. When considering whether or not to use its discretion, the court will approach this on a case-by-case basis.

Bearing this in mind, the majority of claims are brought outside of the time limit.

What can I expect when bringing a claim for damages?

The first thing that we would need to do is to begin to gather all the relevant evidence that might support your case – for example, any documents from police investigations into your abuser, relevant medical and education records. It may be that others have made similar allegations of abuse and that this evidence can also be relied upon.

Once this step has been completed, something called a “letter before claim” is prepared and sent to the Defendant, setting out the legal basis of your claim and factual background of what happened. Once they have received this, the Defendant will have a fixed period of time in which to respond and set out their position.

One important aspect of bringing a claim for abuse is establishing whether you have sustained any psychiatric injuries because of what happened (namely, has your mental health been affected by the abuse?). Some people experience anxiety, depression or PTSD symptoms as a consequence of the abuse they suffered, or rely on drugs or alcohol to block out memories of what happened.

This can affect their ability to work regularly, friendships and even relationships with partners and children. To establish the impact that abuse as had, we will arrange for a Consultant Psychiatrist to meet with you and provide a report commenting on the impact of the abuse. This report is a crucial piece of evidence in bringing a claim of this nature and we work with experts who are experienced in working with people who have suffered sexual abuse.

This report will assist us in being able to fully advise you on the value of your claim. It will also inform us whether there is any treatment or therapy that might help improve your circumstances and your mental health – with the cost of any recommended treatment being claimed from the Defendant.

Will I have to go to Court?

The vast majority of cases settle well before any trial or court hearing. If the Defendant responds to the letter before claim and argues that they are not responsible for the abuse that happened or that it did not occur, then it may be that we file the claim at court to ensure that your case progresses as swiftly as possible. One thing that we strive for, is to ensure that your case is dealt with in a timely manner and without any delay.

Around 95% of all cases settle before they get to trial. It is therefore unlikely that you would have to go to trial. In any event, we will keep you updated as the case progresses and whether or not a trial is likely.

Can I keep my anonymity?

We understand that confidentiality is of utmost importance to our clients. Our solicitors are experienced in supporting survivors of abuse and dealing with cases sensitively, and with care and compassion.

In the event your claim ends up going to court, we can make an application for anonymity on your behalf. The court understands that most claimants in abuse cases wish to remain anonymous and will often grant anonymity to those seeking it. In practice, this means that your name on any court documents would be replaced with three, random letters such as “ABC”. Your address would also be replaced with our firm’s address.

It is also worth remembering that if you have been a complainant in criminal proceedings, then you will automatically be entitled to lifelong anonymity by virtue of the Sexual Offences (Amendments Act) 1992.

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