Saturday, 26 May 2007


ANGRY people who claim they were abused as children in a Sunderland council-run care home say their compensation payments are set to be slashed. The alleged child abuse victims claim they could lose thousands of pounds each after being told they might have to pay court costs. Council lawyers had agreed out-of-court settlements of between £1,000 and £50,000 with 15 alleged victims. Darren Watts, 35, who lived at the house between 1982 and 1985, says he was promised £10,000 in compensation, but has now been told he might only get £7,000. He said: "What is the point in taking this kind of action if it is going to end up costing you at the end of the day? "I have battled for years to get this in the open. I have been through identification parades and it ends up taking a lot out of you. "Now, to be told that the £10,000 could be knocked down to £7,000 leaves me a bit cheesed-off to say the least." Mr Watts is part of a 60-strong group who claim their lives were ruined at Sunderland's now-demolished Witherwack House, and 24 other care homes across the region between 1960 and 1990. The council has denied liability for the allegations, which ranged from torture and rape to emotional abuse. Brian Clare, 35, who led the campaign for justice, says the decision to charge court costs has angered and upset many of the alleged victims. He added: "People are annoyed. They are fuming. For some of them it's like being knocked back to square one. "We have been fighting for 25 years and it has not been easy, so to be told this is a real slap in the face." Solicitor Brian Puech, of Sunderland-based company Richard Reed who represented many of the alleged victims, said: "The settlement was made on the basis that the other side pay the court costs, but they are entitled to object to that and say they don't want to pay them "We are in the process of negotiations so we can arrive at a point when we reach some kind of suitable settlement." A spokesman at Sunderland Council added: "The matter is being dealt with by solicitors acting on behalf of the council's insurers and not the council itself. It would be inappropriate to comment any further." Three years ago, four ex-social workers at the home walked free, after a trial into claims of child neglect collapsed. A Newcastle Crown Court judge cleared them, after ruling that witness statements from events up to 20 years earlier could not be relied on

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