AN ANALYSIS of claims for physical and sexual abuse handled by Ecclesiastical Insurance — the company that insures most Church of England churches — shows that 86 per cent were settled by agreement before court papers were issued. The figures are contained in a submission by Ecclesiastical to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), as part of a review into the civil justice system.
In it, Ecclesiastical say that the costs of claimants’ solicitors account for 33 per cent of monies spent in settling claims. A further 12 per cent covered Ecclesiastical’s own solicitors, and 55 per cent went to the claimant as damages.
In their submission, Ecclesiastical say that the current civil justice system “can effectively deliver compensation to claimants”. It warns, however, that “an adversarial system of civil justice can never fully satisfy a claimant’s needs.”
It says that claimants’ solicitors have a part to play in the “management of expectation”. Claimants “often appear to have an unrealistic expectation in respect of financial compensation. In Ecclesiastical’s experience, many claimant solicitors, on occasion, inflate schedules of loss at the outset of a claim. The expectation therefore created can often lead to unrealistic expectation and eventual claimant disappointment.”
The place of the civil justice system in child-abuse cases will be considered by the inquiry at a two-day invitation-only seminar in London next week.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has reiterated its support for Professor Alexis Jay, who is chairing the inquiry, after victims’ groups, including the Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors group (MACSAS), expressed concern over her ability to manage the inquiry.
“I do not question her personal integrity, but I do question her expertise,” the chairman of MACSAS, Phil Johnson, told The Sunday Times. “We don’t think she has the legal expertise or the robustness to be able to challenge people in a courtroom environment.”
On Monday, the Home Office Minister Sarah Newton told MPs that Professor Jay continued to have the support of the Government. She said: “It is crucial that we now give the inquiry the space and support it needs to get on with its job — getting to the truth for victims and survivors.”
St Patrick's apologises
by Gregg Ryan
THE authorities of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, have commented on the sexual-abuse case after which a former lay volunteer is now serving 13 years in prison for offences against choristers and others over a 40-year period across the Republic (News, 18 November).
In the course of a longer statement, they said: “St Patrick’s Cathedral apologises sincerely and unreservedly for the fact that those victims and their families who needed and were entitled to care and support did not receive this. Once again, it commends the courage of Patrick O’Brien’s victims in coming forward.”