Settlement One Of Largest Handed Down By High Court
A woman subjected to a “sustained period of horrific sexual abuse” by her step-father as a child has spoken of her determination to look to the future after being awarded damages of nearly £650,000.
The settlement awarded to the woman, who experienced years of mental health problems as well as developing eating disorders, is one of the largest handed down by the High Court in an abuse case.
The man took “almost each and every opportunity” he had to abuse his step-daughter at the family home in Hampshire “on an almost daily basis” over a 16-year period, the High Court was told.
The “control freak” also hit her with a stick and made threats to kill her or put her in a children’s home. She felt scared and ashamed to report the abuse and the abuse only ended when she moved out of the family home as a teenager.
Many years later the woman, now in her 50s, summoned up the courage to report the horrific abuse to the police. Her stepfather was jailed for 20 years after being convicted of a string of sex offences.
Following the criminal case the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, instructed expert abuse lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to bring a civil claim for damages.
The High Court has now ordered the stepfather pay the woman almost £650,000. As well as allowing her to access specialist support, the money will also compensate for the impact the abuse had upon her education and career as she had to leave the job she started at an accountancy firm due to the ongoing impact the abuse had upon her.
His Honour Judge Cotter QC described the offending as a “sustained period of horrific sexual abuse” carried out against a vulnerable child who had “no possible means of escape.”
After awarding damages the judge commented that no amount of money would ever be adequate compensation for what she has gone through but he hoped that the woman would now be able to “go forward with a happier life than she has been able to live so far.”
Expert Opinion“This is a truly shocking case which not only highlights how efforts to protect vulnerable children have thankfully moved on massively in recent decades, but also the lasting impact that this kind of horrific abuse can have on people.
“The nightmare our client endured has had a huge bearing on her life. She showed incredible courage in coming forward and contacting the police which resulted in the abuser being sentenced to 20 years’ in prison, reflecting the depravity of his crimes.
“I cannot praise her enough for the bravery she has shown. While the settlement is one of the largest handed down in this type of case, the judge emphasised that he felt no figure would make up for what our client has been through.
“However, we hope that it will at least now allow her to look to the future and begin the process of moving on with her life.
“It is important the survivors of abuse do not feel they have to live in silence as there is support available.” Anna Pask - Senior Associate Solicitor
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting abuse survivors
The abuse only ended when the woman moved out of the family home. The survivor suffered a range of issues as a result of her ordeal, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and struggles with anorexia and bulimia.
She had a breakdown and reported the abuse to police. The stepfather pleaded not guilty to charges, forcing her to give evidence at his criminal trial.
He was found guilty of offences including indecent assault, gross indecency, unlawful sexual intercourse and rape.
The woman said: “This man ruined my childhood and robbed me of my innocence.
“I just wanted to be anywhere other than at home as a child. He was a control freak who made my life miserable. I was terrified of him and felt scared.
“Even as I grew older and started work he continued with the abuse. I could not concentrate at work and felt I had no choice but to give up my career.
“After I moved out and the abuse stopped, it stayed with me. I suffered depression and I didn’t want to go to sleep because of the nightmares. I would sit downstairs until three o’clock in the morning as I didn’t want to go to sleep.
“However, one day I had enough. I was determined that he should not get away with what he had done so I contacted the police. I was angry that he tried to deny what had happened but thankfully he was convicted and jailed.
“I just hope that speaking out encourages other people who have suffered like I have not to battle with the problems alone. It takes a huge amount of courage to talk about such issues but it is absolutely vital to gain justice.”