Substantial judicial award for non-recent childhood abuse in Scotland

Before 21 October 2021 there were only two Scottish judicial awards reported within the previous 10 years for injuries and related losses caused by childhood abuse. The decision in this area by Lord Brailsford in A v Glasgow City Council, dated 13 and reported 21, both October 2021 (link here) is therefore of considerable significance albeit this first instance decision is made on the facts and circumstances of this particular case and is not binding law. The total award made was £1,339,185 excluding interest. This is considerably higher than the £317,000 award, inclusive of interest, in T v The English Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Sheriff McGowan, ASPIC, 30/1/20, reported 5/3/20 (link here) and the £148,000 and £33,000 awards, both inclusive of interest, respectively made in A v C and B v C, Lord Doherty, Court of Session, 15 June 2018 (link here).

In the mid 1980s, the pursuer in A, when aged 13-18, lived with foster carers. The male foster carer was physically and sexually abusive of A and was sentenced in 2019 to 10 years imprisonment after being convicted of lewd, indecent and libidinous practices, indecent assault and such assault also involving unnatural carnal connection to the injury of the pursuer.  

The defender accepted vicarious liability on behalf of the male foster carer.

The main issue between parties on quantum was the extent, if any, to which, on the evidence heard, the psychological injuries caused by the abuse were causative of past and future wage loss said to arise from an inability to sustain employment in the field where the pursuer would have likely worked but for those injuries. In particular, the defender pointed to an absence of documentation which was said to exist despite substantial efforts to obtain such documentation. The court preferred the pursuer’s submissions on these points and made awards at the levels sought by the pursuer.

The figures awarded, excluding interest, are:

  • Solatium (general damages / PSLA award): £135,000, with £90,000 attributable to the period of abuse, £25,000 from then to now, and £20,000 to the future.
  • Past wage loss: £584,874
  • Future wage loss: £370,561
  • Pension loss: £240,000
  • Treatment costs: £8,750
  • Total: £1,339,185

With the maximum payment under the Scottish in-care redress scheme set at £100,000, significantly lower than this latest judicial award, it will be interesting to compare the volume of litigation in in-care abuse claims compared to redress applications after the redress scheme opens for applications, likely by the end of this year.

Frank Hughes, Partner and Fiona McEwan, Associate  

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