Victim tells of law's frustrations: Tim Kelsey hears of anger at rule that fails to recognise harm done to the vulnerable

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The Independent Online
MR S WAS among several people who telephoned the Independent yesterday to express their frustration at the legal problems they face in seeking compensation from local authorities for alleged victimisation while in their care. It is not about money: it is about society recognising that harm was done to them.

Mr S cannot be identified for legal reasons. Twenty years ago, he was removed from a children's home in northern England and placed in the care of foster parents. His father was a schizophrenic, and his mother could not cope with looking after her children.

His foster parents were pillars of local society: they were professionals, ran the Scout group. But he alleges that for two years he was repeatedly abused by his foster father, who was a teacher. He says he was raped and assaulted.

Two years ago, he went on a social work course (he is now a care worker) and went into counselling. It was only through counselling that he was able to recall the extent of his abuse. 'It was stuff I'd buried for 20 years,' he said.

Acting on his information, the police investigated the allegations and have since charged a man with assault and buggery. He will stand trial within the next few months.

The alleged victim, now in his thirties, wants more than a conviction. He wants compensation from the local authority for letting it happen to him. But the law does not recognise that anything did happen. If you do not take out a civil action for compensation within three years then the liability evaporates. The police can prosecute; but the victim cannot seek recompense.

'It is extraordinary and it is very frustrating. I lived through a couple of years of hell and I deserve compensation. I'm still in counselling and the effects are still with me.'