O’Keeffe case sets legal precedent for other victims says local solicitor

A landmark case in Europe may have opened the doors for other victims of childhood sexual abuse says a Dundalk solicitor.

The European Court of Human Rights has found in favour of Cork woman Louise O’Keeffe, who was seeking to have the State held liable for sexual abuse she suffered while a pupil of a primary school - a ruling which local solicitor James MacGuill believes could enable previously unpursued court cases to go to trial.

“A great number of people have discontinued perfectly good cases – where they were genuine victims of serious sexual crime – because the State told them they couldn’t succeed in law,” explained Mr MacGuill.

Mr MacGuill told the Democrat: “I would imagine that there are in region of 50 to 60 cases to which this ruling could be relevent.”

Mr MacGuill believes that the ruling could lead a number of case that were abandoned would have their preceedings re-entered.

“I can’t imagine that the State would look to fight these cases, the circumstances are so exceptional.

“In many of the these cases the State told the those entering proceedings that they were contest the cases and that they would aggressively pursue their legal costs should the judge find in the States favour. Many dropped their cases because of this.

“You might call into question whether it was right of the State to do this in the first instance. “

Ms Louise O’Keeffe was sexually abused by her school principal and last week she won a landmark judgement against the Irish state for failing to protect her.

Ms O’Keeffe took Ireland to the European Court of Human Rights claiming inhumane and degrading treatment while aged nine at Dunderrow National School in Co Cork in 1973.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled that her rights were breached on two grounds in a judgment that could have massive ramifications for other survivors of abuse, including in terms of compensation.


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