Child abuse victims in battle for damages

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More than 40 writs for damages for alleged maltreatment of children in care will be issued within the next few weeks.

The writs, seeking compensation for physical. sexual, or emotional abuse, as well as maltreatment, will be issued against the former Clwyd and Gwynedd county councils in North Wales by lawyers representing ex-residents of a number of homes.

The legal team taking out the writs say they are seeking substantial damages. The same team represented victims of the convicted abuser Frank Beck in Leicestershire who went to court and received between pounds 80,000 and pounds 120,000.

Solicitor Billhar Singh Uttal said yesterday, "We are about to take out in excess of 40 writs alleging negligence on the part of the former Clwyd and Gwynedd county councils in the manner in which they ran, supervised and monitored their community homes. The plaintiffs will say that as a result of the lack of monitoring, supervision and training of the staff in the home, an environment was created in which the abuse could evolve and continue over a very long period of time.

"This disenfranchisement put them in position where they were not able to complain about the abuse. For example, when they complained they were treated as children in care who were not to be believed."

He added: "As a result of the abuse, they have suffered and continue to suffer deep-seated psychological problems which affect the way they deal with their own lives."

News of the writs comes as final preparations are made for the North Wales judicial inquiry into alleged abuse of children in care which begins tomorrow. The inquiry, the biggest of its kind in Britain, is expected to take a year and the first few weeks will be taken up with hearing the evidence of the alleged victims of the abuse. A total of 175 have made statements so far.

Later in the year ,the tribunal will hear witnesses who have been accused of abuse. Each has received a letter from the tribunal outlining the allegations made against them. Up to 80 may give evidence.

Lawyers for the alleged victims have rejected allegations that some claims of abuse may have been prompted by the prospect of damages.

Mr Uttal said: " 'To pursue claim like this involves a lot of trauma and is not undertaken lightly. The driving force of these individuals who have claimed they were abused is not compensation, it is wanting to know that what they were put through has been recognised."