Woman waives right to anonymity as she fights for cru­elty com­pen­sa­tion

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY NEVIN FAR­RELL

A WOMAN sub­jected to child cru­elty by her for­mer Sinn Fein coun­cil­lor step­mother has waived her right to anonymity as she re­news her le­gal chal­lenge to be­ing re­fused com­pen­sa­tion.

Judges at the Court of Ap­peal in Belfast lifted re­port­ing re­stric­tions af­ter be­ing told Mary Mee­han does not want her iden­tity pro­tected.

The 47-year-old is chal­leng­ing a scheme that de­nies pay-outs to vic­tims of his­toric abuse who lived un­der the same roof as per­pe­tra­tors.

In 2013, her step­mother and for­mer guardian, Briege Mee­han (71), ad­mit­ted child cru­elty and as­sault charges, re­ceiv­ing a sus­pended prison sen­tence.

The of­fences al­legedly oc­curred be­tween July 1979 and Oc­to­ber 1980.

At the time, Briege Mee­han was the girl­friend of Martin Mee­han, a se­nior north Belfast repub­li­can ei­ther on the run or re­manded in cus­tody on IRA-re­lated charges.

The abuse be­gan af­ter Mary Mee­han’s mother died and the as­sailant moved into the fam­ily home to live with her fa­ther in the Ar­doyne area, a pre­vi­ous court heard.

Ini­tial phys­i­cal as­saults in­volved hair pulling, trip­ping up the ap­pli­cant and throw­ing her clothes on the floor.

It was claimed that af­ter her fa­ther was im­pris­oned the abuse wors­ened, un­til she was taken into care.

Briege Mee­han, a for­mer Sinn Fein coun­cil­lor in New­town­abbey with an ad­dress at Elm­field Street in Belfast was sus­pended by the party af­ter the abuse al­le­ga­tions sur­faced in 2009.

Her step­daugh­ter launched judicial re­view pro­ceed­ings against the Depart­ment of Jus­tice af­ter a crim­i­nal in­juries com­pen­sa­tion panel turned down an ap­pli­ca­tion for com­pen­sa­tion.

Un­der leg­is­la­tion dat­ing back to the Sev­en­ties, pay-outs were not made in cases where the

Mary Mee­han out­side the Court of Ap­peal in Belfast yes­ter­day. Right: her step­mother, Briege Mee­han

abuser and per­pe­tra­tor lived in the same house­hold.

The ra­tio­nale was based on dif­fi­cul­ties in es­tab­lish­ing the facts, and to en­sure no ben­e­fit to the of­fender.

Although the law has since been amended, the bar re­mains in place for his­toric cases.

Ms Mee­han’s le­gal team ar­gued that the pol­icy breached their client’s hu­man rights.

Coun­sel claimed it was unfair to refuse her when it had al­ready

been es­tab­lished beyond rea­son­able doubt that she was the victim of phys­i­cal abuse.

It was con­tended that if she had been abused by her next door neigh­bour she would be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion.

She is now ap­peal­ing a High Court rul­ing that the po­si­tion was jus­ti­fied. Her bar­ris­ter, Ro­nan Lav­ery QC, told se­nior judges the pol­icy was dis­crim­i­na­tory and anachro­nis­tic.

Tony McGleenan QC, re­spond-

ing for the Depart­ment, coun­tered that the scheme must be eval­u­ated in its to­tal­ity.

“We don’t take any is­sue with the his­tory of this case and the ac­tual ac­count given by the ap­pli­cant of the or­deal she has suf­fered,” he added. “How­ever, this is a chal­lenge to the scheme as a whole, not sim­ply the ap­pli­ca­tion to her case.”

As the ap­peal con­tin­ued, Ms Mee­han ex­plained her rea­sons for waiv­ing the right to anonymity and press­ing on with her le­gal fight.

“I just want to high­light the case and change the law to help ev­ery­body who has suf­fered,” she said out­side court.

“It’s not about the money, it’s to show this is unfair towards some­one who suf­fered abuse and con­tin­ues to suf­fer. Be­cause I lived un­der the same roof I’m not en­ti­tled to a penny — I just feel that I have been dis­crim­i­nated against all my life.”

PRESSEYE/PHOTOPRESS

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