Developing

Child abuse compensation 'could be huge'

By Alex Stevenson

Further child abuse allegations could prompt a "potentially huge" wave of compensation claims, a family law solicitor has warned.

Sandra Pasotti, who works for law firm Bracewell Law, told politics.co.uk she believes claims about child abuse outside North Wales care homes could be "the tip of the iceberg" - and that large numbers of victims may want to seek justice as the truth emerges.

"It just may give adults now who were children then and may have been abused in the past some sort of courage to come forward and make allegations now," she said.

"If they feel there will be some sympathy, so they can have some sort of closure and justice, that may give them the impetus they need. But who knows what we're talking about here?"

One hundred and forty compensation payments followed the Waterhouse inquiry's 2000 report into child abuse in north Wales.

Now, as the judge's investigation is itself probed to establish whether it missed out significant aspects of the abuse which took place at the time, Pasotti believes the true scale of the wrongdoing is about to emerge - and is "very worrying indeed".

"We need to ask more questions to get to the bottom of it, but it does seem that powerful people are to be involved and that the conclusion from that is there another possible cover-up," she added.

Evidence given by children in the family law cases Pasotti specialises in are often given significant weight, because the welfare of the child is judged to be paramount.

Pasotti suggested that the apparent failure of police officers and others to listen to the claims of abuse by children, in both the north Wales scandal and the allegations relating to BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, may reflect the "far greater" burden of proof required in criminal cases.

She said changes in child protection levels meant the likelihood of another child abuse scandal occurring on the same scale today were slim.

"I would certainly think it would be incredibly difficult for a situation to arise nowadays, as it arose in the 70s and 80s," Pasotti added.

"I think the safeguards and controls in place by people who deal with children are much stronger now. There's been a whole ream of measures introduced to make sure that happens."