Court hears survivor of historic institutional abuse unfairly denied an oral hearing in his appeal against compensation
A SURVIVOR of historic institutional abuse was unfairly denied an oral hearing in his appeal against the level of compensation, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Scoffield quashed the final determination reached in the man's case and remitted it for a fresh assessment.
Lawyers predicted the verdict will have wider implications for all victims seeking to appeal their awards.
Compensation is being paid to those abused at facilities across Northern Ireland run by religious orders and the state as a key recommendation of the Historical Abuse Inquiry (HIA).
The man at the centre of the legal action, who cannot be identified, attended training schools in Co Down during the 1970s.
In 2020, the HIA Redress Board initially awarded him £15,000 for the ill-treatment he suffered. On appeal to a single judicial member (SJM) his compensation was increased to £25,000.
Despite accepting the man had been subjected to emotional and physical abuse, the SJM could not be satisfied that he had also been abused sexually.
Judicial review proceedings were brought over refusals to hold an oral appeal hearing and to admit two witness statements in support of the man's allegations.
Lawyers for the man claimed those decisions were procedurally unfair, contrary to the terms of the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019, and breached his human rights.
Ruling on the challenge, Mr Justice Scoffield described most elements of the appeal process as "unimpeachable".
However, he pointed out that further evidence had been made available by that stage.
"It seems to me to have been unfair to have rejected (what the applicant considered to be) the most important element of his claim without first hearing from him," the judge said.
"That is not necessarily because he would have been able to provide additional information; but because of the sense of injustice of having what he presented as the most important element of his claim rejected without the opportunity of explaining himself."
Granting the judicial review on a limited basis, the judge confirmed: "I therefore propose to quash the SJM's final determination and to remit the matter to the Redress Board for a re-determination of the appeal by another single judicial member".
Outside court a solicitor for the man described it as an important judgment for all survivors of historical institutional abuse, Paul Pierce of KRW Law said: "It is important that all victims of physical and sexual violence have every opportunity to present their case, and that all difficulties associated with doing that are given proper consideration and dealt with sympathetically".