Child sex abuse survivors cannot be excluded from payment scheme on basis of no prior complaint
A judge has held that survivors of child sexual abuse in National Schools cannot be excluded from the State’s ex-gratia payment scheme on the basis that they have not established a prior complaint against their abuser.
Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was appointed in 2017, in the wake of a landmark European human rights judgment, as an independent assessor to review cases where applicants had been refused compensation by the State Claims Agency.
He has now found that the State’s requirement of a “prior complaint” for an applicant to the ex-gratia scheme to be eligible fro a payment is incompatible with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling in O’Keeffe v Ireland in 2014.
Mr Justice O’Neill went further to hold that the “prior complaint” condition risks a “continuing breach of the rights under Article 13 of the ECHR” (the right to an effective remedy) of those survivors of child sexual abuse in National Schools.
He found that the 13 cases submitted to him for review where applicants were refused on the sole ground that they failed to furnish evidence of a “prior complaint” are entitled to a payment.
In relation to the six remaining cases before him, where payments were refused for two reasons, Mr Justice O’Neill found that the applicants are not entitled to payment under the ex-gratia scheme, but may be able to pursue redress outside of the scheme.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which has raised concerns about the State’s ex-gratia scheme since 2015, is now calling for the Government to “quickly overhaul” the scheme to ensure effective remedy to those who are being denied justice by State inaction.
Chief commissioner Emily Logan said: “Louise O’Keeffe’s long fight for justice should have finally paved the way to an effective remedy for survivors of child abuse in Irish schools, but instead the State’s narrow interpretation of that ruling has served only to block, deny and frustrate victims.
“The Commission welcomed the opportunity to make submissions to the Independent Assessor on this important human rights issue and the Commission hopes that his decision will now lead the Government to immediately put in place a remedy that complies with the O’Keeffe judgment and ensures an effective remedy to survivors of child abuse in Irish schools.”