The second preliminary took place on 25 September in preparation for the three weeks of public hearings due to start on 26 November 2018.
In the Inquiry’s words: This investigation focuses on the support services and legal remedies available to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. It responds to multiple reports of inadequate support services, obstructive insurance companies and a civil justice system that may not deliver genuine reparation.
The public hearings will investigate those issues through the examination of five case studies of historical abuse litigation. These are: North Wales children’s homes, Forde Park Approved School, St Leonard’s children’s home, St Aidan’s & St Vincent’s children’s home and the Stanhope Castle Approved School.
Opening the preliminary hearing, Counsel to the Inquiry (CTI) explained that the inquiry would be a thematic investigation focusing on the aftermath of abuse. It is within the inquiry’s remit to investigate and examine the extent to which the civil justice system, the compensation frameworks and existing support services are fit to deliver reparations to victims and survivors of child abuse. Insight into this will be provided through specific examples from the case studies. The primary focus is on past practices, however evidence of practices today would also need to be elicited to understand how assistance and services are provided today.
An interim report recording conclusions from the public hearing is expected in the early part of 2019 and it is envisaged that in the latter part of 2019 the inquiry will hold a public seminar attended by relevant stakeholders at which any potential reforms would be discussed.
CTI emphasised that the public hearing will not be a microscopic examination of the witness and documentary evidence as the focus is on wider thematic issues.
Following submissions from various core participants CTI confirmed that the issues of limitation and quantification of damages would fall squarely within the scope of the investigation and will be considered during the case studies as would “the whole ability of…victims and survivors to access any form of justice and obtain any form of compensation, civil or criminal.”
Interestingly, although CTI confirmed that disclosure would not extend to examining whether cases were properly run by defendant solicitors or not, he did comment that: “[It] is not to say however that will not look at the issues more broadly by asking the solicitors who were involved in that litigation or the insurers or the clients.”
We will be reporting on the Accountability and Reparations public hearing through this Blog once it is underway.
Authored by Associate Solicitor, Hannah Parry