Nuns to be sued for 'abuse'

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MORE than 400 former residents of children's homes run by an order of Catholic nuns are to sue it over what they claim was cruel and brutal treatment.

Scores of former residents of homes in Newcastle, Sunderland, Plymouth, Carlisle, Cardiff, Swansea and Manchester have come forward since the first allegations about the Poor Sisters of Nazareth emerged in Scotland last year. Files have been passed by the former residents' lawyers to police, and criminal investigations are under way in Newcastle and Manchester. In July, one nun appeared in court in Scotland charged with inflicting "cruel and unusual" punishment on children in her care.

The claims of beatings, punishments and appalling living conditions come mostly from women who say their treatment, covered up and denied by the Church, has left them traumatised. Some complain of having suffered in the homes as recently as the Seventies.

The claims were prompted when dozens of former residents of homes in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Midlothian and Kilmarnock alleged physical abuse. More than 260 former residents have approached the Glasgow law firm of Ross, Harper Murphy with a variety of complaints raging from sadistic beatings to sex abuse. Lawyer Cameron Fyfe says he hopes to begin legal action with six test cases shortly if the Sisters do not agree to settle out of court.

The Poor Sisters of Nazareth is one of the longest established and richest orders in Britain. World-wide it is worth pounds 154m.

In Scotland the solicitors representing the Sisters of Nazareth refused to comment but it is believed the allegations will be vigorously contested.

Special report, page six