Tuesday 17 September 2019

Why spell out legal cost issue to victims?

By Deborah Coleman - Straight Talking

The Department of Education has written to those who have claimed they were abused in schools, to warn them that they will be pursued for legal costs, should they lose their case.

This week, Minister Richard Bruton defended the sending of these letters and said that it was simply a case of providing information, and not intimidation of alleged victims.

Even if it was simple process, designed to inform complainants, it was a most insensitive approach to take with people who have suffered horrific abuse in State institutions.

Surely anyone who makes such a claim, already has a solicitor involved and it is up to them to seek independent legal advice.

Letters such as these serve no purpose but to put a doubt in the minds of victims who are taking the biggest step of their lives.

To come forward in the wake of abuse certainly takes a lot of courage and certainty so I'm sure that receiving a letter spelling out that you could be liable for thousands of Euro in legal costs in the event that you lose your case, is the last thing that a person wants or needs.

From what I have read about the many shocking abuse revelations in recent years, money is the last thing that has any impact on a victim's decision to come forward.

Being listened to and making their abuser accountable and the admission of wrong-doing is priceless to someone whose life has been marred by such awful abuse, at the hands somebody in a position of responsibility.

To think that they would be made to feel like they cannot speak up and report a case of abuse, due to threat of the financial fallout is nothing short of a disgrace.

Minister Bruton outlined that the State is making sure that people are treated in a humane manner while at the same time respecting the obligations of the courts.

This is fair enough, but once a person's own legal team is appointed why does the State have to reiterate the matter of fees.

Justice is about far more that money and legal bills and while they of course have to be paid, it is up to the individual whether they take a case or not.

There is no doubt that such a letter would certainly put a doubt in the mind of someone who was in any way reluctant to file a claim.

Wexford People

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