The case of three Plymouth girls abused by their mother

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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The BBC reports on a shocking story from Plymouth.

Plymouth Crown Court was told that three girls were systematically abused by their mother, who is alleged to have beaten them with "bamboo, belts and brushes". She was sentenced to five years imprisonment for various acts of cruelty between 1976 and 1988.

The mother allegedly worked as a prostitute from her home, where she allowed visiting men access to her daughters.

Eventually social workers put the three girls and their brother into children's homes. A 60 year old man, who denied two indecent assaults on one of the girls in 1981 and 1982, was convicted and jailed for three years. A second man, who had been due to stand trial charged with rape, died two weeks before the trial.

Bringing a compensation claim in these circumstances would be problematic but not impossible. A claim might be possible to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Regrettably the CICA Scheme does not permit claims made by people who are alleging abuse that occurred prior to 1979, by a family member living in the same household. Despite a number of challenges (most recently JT v First-tier Tribunal & Anor (Criminal Injuries Compensation : reduction and withholding of awards) [2015] UKUT 478 (AAC) (01 September 2015) to this rule in the courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, it remains a bar to pre 1979 claims.

A civil claim against the perpetrator of the abuse (even though they have died) is possible, but that rests on the ability of the perpetrator to pay the claim. In some cases of this nature, there is a potential claim against social services. Limitation remains a problem for many Claimants.

The following three cases illustrate how a civil claim might work. 

In B v LB Ealing [2008] EWHC 1262 (QB), the Claimant sought damages arising out of injuries inflicted on her by her father during the course of her childhood. He beat her practically on a daily basis from the age of about 3 to 17 (14 years). The judge found that the Claimant had developed an anxiety disorder, and mild to moderate symptoms of agoraphobia. He also found that her upbringing was a major component in her lifelong symptoms of varying levels of anxiety. She received £33,500 for her PSLA, together with a further sum for loss of earnings. 

The second case is that of Pierce v Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council [2007] EWHC 2968. The Claimant did not suffer any psychiatric damage, but he did suffer neglect and physical abuse during his time at home, which continued for a period of about thirteen years.  He was awarded £25,000.

The third case is that of G v S (2009) Unreported Manchester County Court 2009. This was a 23 year old who brought a claim against her foster mother for childhood injuries. When she was six years old, she was placed with the foster mother. She was subject to physical and emotional abuse, and was shown no warmth or kindness. She was taken away from school and was illiterate at the age of 18. She finally left her foster mother at the age of 18. Consequently she endured 12 years of abuse. The matter was reported to the police and the foster mother was convicted. The Claimant was diagnosed with psychiatric damages at the top of the moderate range at the time of trial. The prognosis was for the symptoms to gradually recede. The judge considered the abuse and its consequence to have been more serious than that in Pierce v Doncaster MBC and comparable to the abuse in B v LB Ealing. He awarded £45,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. 

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About the Author

Malcolm is an Senior Associate in our London office, with nearly twenty years' experience.

Malcolm Johnson
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