Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Church compensates abuse victim

A religious statue

The Catholic Church has paid a five-figure sum to a victim of clerical sexual abuse in Northern Ireland.

The case was taken against the diocese of Down and Connor and was settled out of court.

The victim was sexually abused as a child at the hands of two priests. Both men have since died.

The woman, who was abused from the age of seven, also received an apology from the Church. She said she was very happy with the "substantial" settlement.

She did not want to be named, but in an interview with Good Morning Ulster, she spoke about the devastating effect the abuse had on the rest of her life.

She said she had wanted "to die" and described how she stopped eating and developed anorexia.

"They ruined my childhood and my teenage years.

"The images that I still have cause me nightmares," she said.

Widespread abuse

She decided to speak out decades later, when her granddaughter told her that she wanted to be an altar server.

The quicker that these cases can be commenced and then resolved, the better off the individual concerned. It allows them to deal with the issue and start taking the first steps on the road to recovery.
Hilary Carmichael, solicitor

The victim said that following the settlement, she now hoped she could "move on" and have "a better life".

The woman's solicitor, Hilary Carmichael, said the abuse her client suffered was widespread.

One of the priests abused her between the ages of seven and nine while the other began abusing her when she was 11 years old.

Ms Carmichael said: "She didn't come to see me until approximately 50 years after the abuse had started.

"It did take her some considerable time and a lot of patience and a lot of understanding to obtain a full account of her abuse to allow me to begin the legal process on her behalf."

Because of the length of time which had elapsed between the offences and the complaint, many documents were no longer in existence, including some of the woman's school and medical records.

However, Ms Carmichael said in this particular case, there was sufficient evidence.

"The plaintiff was able to give a very clear account of the abuse and it make it quite clear that what she was saying was actually the truth," she said.

Church response

The solicitor said that the diocese had dealt with the case "head on" and fairly and squarely.

She added that any delays had been as a result of the legal process, rather than any action by the Church.

She explained: "It takes a a lot to try and face it, to embark upon the legal process.

"The quicker that these cases can be commenced and then resolved, the better off the individual concerned.

"It allows them to deal with the issue and start taking the first steps on the road to recovery."

In a statement, the diocese of Down and Connor said: "When people come forward the diocese listens carefully to their concerns.

"In this case, as in others, the diocese provided help and support while the case was considered fully.

"If people have concerns they should bring them to the attention of the civil authorities."

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