Nazareth House survivor of sexual and physical abuse awarded £75,000 in legal claim

Solicitors Journal [Cambridge, England]

December 22, 2022

A woman has been given £75,000 by the Sisters of Nazareth, a Catholic Order responsible for running Nazareth House Children’s Home, Lenton, Nottingham, in a settlement for a legal claim for alleged abuse she suffered as a child at the Home in the 1970s and 1980s.

The woman, whose identity the court anonymised as HXH, complained of serious sexual and physical abuse at Nazareth House, including repeated sexual assault by a member of care staff.

As a child, she told another carer about the sexual abuse, which stopped soon after. HXH left Nazareth House when she was a teenager and spent much of her adulthood trying to bury her memories of the abuse.

In 2006, HXH reported the abuse to Nottingham Police and the alleged perpetrator was charged with multiple sexual offences against her. Unfortunately, HXH’s health declined, and she withdrew from the prosecution before trial in 2007. HXH had understood that she would be able to re-pursue the criminal complaint when her health improved.

HXH was approached by Nottingham Police in 2018 as part of Operation Equinox, a widespread investigation into non-recent abuse in Nottingham. She then discovered that the CPS had offered no evidence after she withdrew from the prosecution in 2007, and that the suspect had been acquitted under s.17 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967. HXH was distraught to learn that double jeopardy rules prevented the re-prosecution of the suspect. Her mental health deteriorated, and she became unable to work.

HXH instructed Leigh Day to bring a civil claim for the abuse she had suffered whilst in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth.

Leigh Day gathered supporting statements from former members of staff, other former residents, and the original investigating police officer. The investigations were made more difficult because Nottingham Police had not retained HXH’s police statement from 2006, and other parts of the police files were missing.

Civil court proceedings were issued on HXH’s behalf in July 2021, with a civil trial listed for January 2023. Expert evidence from consultant psychiatrist Dr Fiona Mason concluded that she suffered from PTSD, depression, and somatoform disorder, and that she required specialist therapy to help her to cope with the effects of the abuse.

In December 2022, the Sisters of Nazareth agreed to pay HXH £75,000 compensation for her claim for abuse and mistreatment. The Catholic Oder also offered HXH a formal apology which accepted “we failed to prevent abuse being inflicted on you and our responsibility to provide the care you needed left much to be desired”.

HXH said: “My experiences in care at Nazareth House have affected so much of my life, from my mental health to my relationships. It means a lot to me that the abuse I suffered has been recognised. I hope that the successful conclusion of my case will give others the courage to come forward and will help me to move on and focus on my future.”

Leigh Day abuse team solicitor Catriona Rubens said: “I am pleased that HXH’s long battle for justice has reached a successful conclusion, and that the Sisters of Nazareth has recognised its failures to protect her as a child. Abuse in religious settings can have long-lasting effects; as a child, HXH was taught to respect and revere the Catholic order that was supposed to care for her, but instead left her exposed to abuse.

“HXH’s claim was made more difficult by the Defendant’s reliance on the statutory limitation defence to argue that her claim was technically being brought too late. We urge the Government to implement the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s recommendation to remove the three-year limitation period for claims brought by survivors of child sexual abuse like HXH, in recognition of the struggles many survivors face when disclosing and reporting abuse.

“We continue to investigate other claims of abuse at Nazareth House, Nottingham, and welcome contact from witnesses who may have relevant information.”