Abuse victim Mary Meehan, holding a picture of herself as a child, has taken her case to the High Court after being refused criminal injury compensation under the ‘same roof’ rule.
A victim of horrific child abuse and neglect, denied compensation because she lived under the same roof as her abuser, has said she’s feels like she’s being abused all over again.
Mary Meehan, who waived her right to anonymity, would have been entitled to a criminal injury payment had she not lived with her abuser Briege Meehan – a former Sinn Féin councillor – but an antiquated ‘same roof’ policy has led to her being refused compensation.
Ms Meehan, currently fighting the judgment in Belfast High Court, was abused and neglected in the early 1980s by her stepmother, at the time called Briege McLaughlin, while her father, former IRA commander Martin Meehan was in prison.
Just 10-years-old at the time, she was removed from the family’s Ardoyne home by social services, following concerns raised by neighbours and teachers and placed in Lissue House Hospital.
In 2008, the year after her father’s death, Ms Meehan contacted police and reported historic child abuse at the hands of her stepmother.
In June 2013 the north Belfast woman pleaded guilty to child cruelty and assault, sex abuse charges were left on the books. The pensioner was given a suspended sentence.
Following the conviction Ms Meehan applied for a criminal injury payment only to be told that while her injury and trauma were not in question, a ‘same roof’ law which has since been changed, was not backdated to include historic cases.
There are currently two similar cases going through the courts in England and Scotland with victims refused criminal injury payments under the same legislation. In the Scottish case the victim, Monica Allen, abused as a child by her mother, is currently taking her case to the Supreme Court.
Speaking to the Irish News Ms Meehan said: “If I’d lived next door to my abuser I would have been entitled to compensation, but because, through no fault of my own, she moved into our home, my case was rejected.
“Since my abuser was convicted I’ve really struggled emotionally, I moved away from Belfast because I was constantly reminded of what happened and was taking panic attacks to the point I didn’t even want to leave the house.
“I was a child, a frightened abused child, I had no say in where I lived at the time and yet I’m being penalised for it now, I feel like I’m abused all over again.
“I feel like this isn’t just about me any more but about all the victims of historic child abuse who are currently going through the courts or have yet to come forward.
“This is a system not designed with child victims in mind and it needs changed”, she added.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Allison Morris for the origional story.