Northern Ireland news

Judgment reserved in historic abuse survivors compensation legal action

The High Court in Belfast

JUDGMENT has been reserved in a renewed legal action over the ongoing failure to introduce compensation for survivors of historical abuse in Northern Ireland.

Elderly victims are seeking to overturn a ruling that the British Government's stance in the absence of a Stormont Executive is not unlawful.

Lawyers for the group claim Secretary of State Julian Smith has the power to introduce ex gratia payments for the "monstrous wrongs" they suffered.

Following a three-day hearing at the Court of Appeal in Belfast senior judges pledged to give their decision as soon as possible.

Proceedings centre on the continued failure to implement the redress scheme recommended by a major inquiry back in 2017.

The challenge is being taken by a man in his seventies, identified only as JR80, on behalf of those subjected to physical and sexual mistreatment in children's homes run by religious orders and the state between 1922 and 1995.

Earlier this year a High Court judge dismissed the case after describing the continued political vacuum as defective and damaging for society, but not unconstitutional.

Despite indications that legislation to compensate abuse victims will be introduced at Westminster by the end of the year, JR80 has pressed ahead with an appeal against that ruling.

In its report, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry recommended compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 to those who suffered neglect and assaults in the homes.

Since then up to 30 abuse victims have died without gaining access to the proposed redress scheme.

JR80 is seeking to have the Secretary of State and Executive Office compelled to take immediate steps on the pay-outs.

His barrister argued that he and other survivors have been denied the justice they deserve from the state.

Appeal judges were told the Secretary of State has prerogative authority to introduce an ex gratia scheme of payments before it is too late.

During closing submissions on Monday Barry Macdonald QC insisted: "Without being too dramatic about it, victims are dying."

Lord Justice Stephens confirmed a verdict will be given at a later date.

He said: "There are complicated issues in this case, we will reserve our judgment and hope to give it as quickly as possible."

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