Leading child abuse solicitors Abney Garsden McDonald have made an application to the High Court for a Group Litigation Order - a formal legal suit on behalf of a group of individuals, against Manchester City Council for alleged child abuse suffered by a number of victims whilst in the care of children's homes run by Social Services in the 1970's and 1980's. Peter Garsden, Managing Partner and lead solicitor, is co-ordinating more than 150 claimants in what could be the highest award of compensation in the country to date because of a ground breaking change in the law.
The change in the law made in January 2008, allows victims of abuse to claim extra compensation for assault called "aggravated, exemplary,and/or punitive damages". This means that the courts, in some cases, are allowed to:
1. Punish Defendants for what has happened,
2. Award extra damages where what has happened is particularly bad
3. Impose on the Defendants extra damages where an officer of government or his agent committed the wrong.
If approved by the High Court this will be the second group action brought against Manchester City Council and potentially the largest group action of its type in the country. Previously in March 2007 Mr Garsden secured compensation for 168 individuals amounting to nearly £2,260,000 which is the largest group action in the country so far.
Commenting on the proceedings Peter Garsden said: "Because of the number of victims of serious physical and sexual abuse who have come forward from children's homes run by Manchester City Council we have decided to start another group. The Council legal department assured us that they would settle all claims, and that it was not necessary for the Claimants to join the first group, which closed in 2007. Regrettably, despite a change in the law in January 2008, which was meant to benefit Claimants, the Council, through their insurers, have decided to reverse their policy, and force the Claimants to go to court. We hope that, the legal proceedings we are issuing will encourage the Council to change their policy, and not prolong the inevitable suffering the survivors have to endure."
The group was originally formed in March 2000 in response to a massive police investigation launched by Greater Manchester Police code named "Operation Cleopatra" from Grey Mare Lane Police Station. Starting in 1997 and concluding around 2002 it investigated 66 children's homes in Greater Manchester, and prosecuted a number of individuals. Manchester City Council Social Services Department ran most of the homes. The main homes were Rosehill in Northenden, Broomehouse in Didsbury, and Mobberley Boys School in Mobberley, Knutsford. The record shows that they took 922 statements and held allegations against 536 individuals of whom very few were considered for prosecution.
Other homes in the group included Lynwood, Seymour Road, Ellerslie, Inchape Drive, Dickenson Road, Bollin Cross, and various Family Group Homes run by Individuals.
Peter Garsden and Paul McDonald formed Abney Garsden McDonald in 1985. From their Head Office in Cheadle Hulme they offer a comprehensive range of legal services. Since 1994 the firm has developed a niche market in child abuse compensation claims and now has the UK's largest dedicated Child Abuse compensation claims department. Peter is one of the founder members of a nationwide group called A.C.A.L. (Association of Child Abuse Lawyers). Peter has substantial media experience and is currently the Co-ordinating Solicitor for most the North West Child Abuse Group Actions. Paul McDonald retired from the partnership in February 2007.