The High Court has declared a new civil law in long-term abuse cases. In a ruling issued on 21st May 2015, Mr Justice Michael White has recognised that the long-term control and manipulation that an abuser exerts over a victim which facilitates abuse is in itself a civil offence.
Cormac Walsh, from Arklow, who took the case said that recognising the concept of a ‘continuum of oppression’ helps create a better understanding of the hold abusers have over their victims, and the long-term and insidious effects which this has.
“It explains to victims that it was not their fault, that the child is never at fault. It helps victims to see that they did nothing wrong. It validates our struggle, the struggle to understand, to forgive ourselves, to get some peace. I hope this judgement opens the doors to others who have been abused over long periods, and that a clearer recognition of the nature of such abuse may help them to heal.”
His solicitor, Deirdre Burke, said the case aimed to highlight the ‘continuum of oppression’ which begins with the first contact with the victim, and extends to the physical abuse and beyond, and its impact on victims and to acknowledge that there is more to their abuse than the individual assaults involved.”
Speaking on the impact of the judge’s ruling, she said “at last it’s an acknowledgement to victims of the full extent of the actual wrong done to them. It adds to their understanding of such long-term abuse and also to society’s understanding of these kinds of abuse.
The court also awarded Cormac Walsh personal injury compensation of €200,000 against his abuser, Michael Byrne, who is currently serving a sentence at Arbour Hill prison arising from criminal proceedings on the abuse.
While welcoming the judgment and the award, Cormac Walsh, acknowledged that “dealing with this nightmare has been exhausting. It took all my energy and mental resources to get through it. I nearly didn’t make it. I will be dealing with the effects for the rest of my life. I get to various milestones, his guilty plea, the end of the criminal trial, his cross examination of me in the High Court, and think now it’s all over, now I can start living again. And then I sink into a depression and cannot function properly.”
“The effect all this has had on my family – my wife, Mary and children, Katie and David, has been catastrophic. I would not be here today without their love, support, strength and courage.”