1950’s test case fails

August 24, 2004

UP TO 150 former residents of Catholic-run children’s homes in Scotland have lost damages actions for allegedly being abused, after a court ruling in a test case. A judge decided that a £50,000 claim by a woman who had spent several years in Nazareth House, Cardonald, Glasgow, was time-barred, having been raised more than 40 years after she left the home. The judgment affects scores of similar cases in which the alleged physical ill-treatment by nuns occurred before 1964 and where the court has no discretion to allow out-of-time actions to proceed. Cameron Fyfe, a solicitor involved in the cases, said: “This decision was expected, but it is not the end of the road. MSPs are looking at the possibility of changing the law and if that were to happen, these people might still have an action.” Several hundred cases have been raised in the Court of Session in Edinburgh against a religious order, the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, based in Hammersmith, London, which had homes in Scotland. Half a dozen have been chosen as test cases in which different legal issues will be decided. Elizabeth Abernethy, 55, of Liverpool, stayed in the Cardonald home from infancy until she was 11, in 1959. She alleges that a nun, Sister Norbert, now dead, assaulted her three or four times a day, every day, from the age of five. The Poor Sisters of Nazareth denied the allegations, and the order’s lawyers argued that Mrs Abernethy’s claim was time-barred. They said the law had given her 20 years after leaving the home to pursue a claim, but her case had not been raised until 2000.

Scotsman

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