Scottish judicial awards for childhood abuse

Very few cases of awards of personal injuries damages for abuse have been reported in recent years in Scotland. It is clear this is now changing with the effects of the retrospective abolition of limitation now being seen. What is noteworthy too are substantial damage awards now being made and the significant impact on such awards from judicial interest being added for many years.

Sheriff McGowan’s judgment in T v The English Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, ASPIC, 30/1/20, reported 5/3/20, is only the second reported Scottish decision on damages for personal injury caused by childhood abuse following the abolition of limitation. A link to the judgment is here.

The male pursuer (claimant) was raped, beaten and molested while at a boarding school between 1979 and 1980. Although not diagnosed at the time, he developed PTSD shortly after leaving the school, which has persisted to the present day with symptoms of varying severity, sometimes moderate to severe. In 2010 he attempted suicide.

The pursuer (claimant) sought an award at over £1m. The defender argued for an award at just under £75k. Sheriff McGowan awarded £317k, inclusive of interest, with most of that being for the injury with solatium (general damages) of £120k and interest on that of another £95k, and with the remaining £102k being wage loss related heads of loss, plus interest on those heads of loss.

The only other recently reported Scottish judgment in this field was in the case of A v C and B v C, Lord Doherty, Court of Session, 15 June 2018 (link here). A had suffered sexual abuse between the ages of 8 and 19 while B had suffered sexual abuse between the ages of 8 and 11. The awards for solatium were £90k and £20k respectively again with judicial interest then adding substantially to take the totals to £148k and £33k respectively.

Scots Law is still developing in this field. The current 15th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of Damages in Personal Injury Cases does not specifically cover abuse-related injuries but the introduction to this edition indicates that specific treatment of this type of case may feature in future editions, as has been recommended by IICSA in its initial Accountability & Reparations Report.

Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate, BLM

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