Woman wins almost half a million pounds in payout over childhood abuse


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The Independent Online

A woman has won a six-figure sum at the High Court over the physical and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather as a child.

The victim, now in her 40s, was awarded damages and interest totalling £470,000 by a judge in London relating to abuse in the 1970s when she was aged seven to 12.

A ruling in her favour against the stepfather, who denied physically and sexually abusing her, was made by Mrs Justice Nicola Davies.

She announced that she accepted the woman's "account of the abuse which she says she suffered as a result of the actions of the defendant (the step-father)".

The judge added: "Accordingly, I am satisfied that the claimant has made out her case as to the physical and sexual abuse which she suffered over a period of five years for which the defendant alone was responsible."

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was awarded damages of £359,640, together with interest, making a total award of £470,034.90.

Included in the award was £70,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, sums for past and future loss of earnings, and £26,742 for future treatment.

After the ruling the woman, from Kent, spoke of her relief at the outcome of the case in a statement issued by Irwin Mitchell, the law firm which represented her.

Her lawyers said the abuse has had a "devastating" effect on her life, leading to her being suicidal, severely depressed, a regular self-harmer and unable to hold down a job or commit to a long-term relationship.

Referred to as "Claire" in the statement - which is not her real name - she says her stepfather "ruined" her life, adding: "What he did has haunted me for the last 30 years and it has never become any easier to accept.

"I seem to have spent most of my life waiting for a final conclusion so I can finally start to rebuild my life.

"It started with physical abuse soon after him and my mum married. He beat me and smothered my food in black pepper.

"Then it turned sexual. My mum worked shifts so my stepfather was regularly left to care for me.

"I knew what he was doing was wrong but I was too scared to tell anyone. He told me I would end up in a children's home if I did.

"I left school with barely any qualifications because I couldn't concentrate and I've struggled to keep jobs because of my psychiatric illness.

"I have regularly tried to end my life because I just couldn't see the point any more."

She said the damages meant she can now "get help from the best support and psychiatric services and I hope I can finally start to move on with my life".

Natasha Lewis, a child abuse and serious injury expert at Irwin Mitchell's London office, said: "Claire has suffered hugely throughout her life as a result of the actions of a man who was entrusted with her care.

"She has been diagnosed with a personality disorder, most likely caused by post traumatic stress, which affects her on an almost daily basis.

"We deal with many victims whose lives have been destroyed at the hands of their abusers and, though their needs are varied, in the vast majority of cases they suffer long-term effects and need professional support to help them rebuild their lives.

"Claire remains on anti-depressants and it is only in the last four years that she has stopped making regular suicide attempts.

"The psychological and physical scars will last forever but Claire is determined to rebuild her life and try to recover from her abusive experiences."

Mrs Justice Davies said the defendant, who had worked in the civil service, denied the assaults.

She said: "I reject the contention of the defendant that a male member of the claimant's family was responsible for sexual abuse of the claimant."