Saturday, 26 May 2007

alleged victims

JUDGE will decide if 15 alleged victims of child cruelty in Sunderland care homes in the 1970s are to receive compensation. The 15 are part of a group of 60 claimants who say their lives were blighted by the treatment they received as youngsters at the now demolished Witherwack House care home in Sunderland and two others in the city. In a civil action to be heard at Newcastle Crown Court next month, the 15 are claiming damages for the abuse they suffered at the council-run home. For the action to succeed, lawyers for the 15 will have to prove that "on the balance of probabilities" they were abused and that Sunderland Council were negligent in letting the abuse happen. To be awarded any money, the claimants will then have to prove they have been psychologically damaged by their experiences. Insurers acting on behalf of Sunderland Council are contesting the case. It is understood they will seek to prove to the judge that no abuse happened, or if it did, Sunderland Council was not negligent in its handling of the children and could therefore not be held liable for damages. Criminal charges were brought against four former social workers at the homes alleging child cruelty. That case was thrown out in February, 2000, after the judge decided witness statements of events 20 years ago could not be relied upon. The standard of proof is lower in the upcoming civil case and the former residents will only have to prove there was "probably" systematic abuse in the homes. They will not have to prove it happened "beyond doubt". The case will go before a single judge at the end of February and it is expected to last three weeks

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