Three siblings sexually abused by a care home worker have secured £1m in damages from the Church of Scotland.
The two men and one woman were targeted by paedophile Ian Samson at Lord and Lady Polwarth Children’s Home in Edinburgh.
A court previously heard the victims were assaulted during a campaign of abuse that spanned three decades
The Church expressed “deep and sincere regret” for the trauma experienced by the children.
Samson was later jailed for 14 years after being found guilty of 22 serious sexual assaults.
After raising a legal action last year with Digby Brown Solicitors, the woman – who was forced to undergo an abortion when she became pregnant after being raped – secured £500,000 from the Kirk.
Her two brothers each received £250,000.
The compensation is the most ever known to have been recovered from a religious body in Scotland.
In a joint statement, the siblings said: “Samson was evil and robbed us of our childhood and our future.
“Our case has never been about the money – raising a civil action in the courts was the only way we could get any sort of acknowledgement from the Church of Scotland.
“It’s a shame that an organisation which promotes ‘goodness and morals’ can’t do the right thing themselves and hold their hands up and apologise rather than force victims to go endure further legal proceedings.
“We nearly gave up so many times in getting the Kirk to accept responsibility so we’re delighted this is now over and have the justice and closure we need to get on with life as best we can.”
The statement concluded with a message for fellow victims.
“To anyone else affected by abuse – be strong and step forward. You can get closure and together we can all make a difference.”
Samson worked at Lord and Lady Polwarth as a superintendent alongside his wife, who was a matron.
His offending was carried out between the 1970s and 1990s.
Lawyers said some victims hid in cupboards or dog baskets to avoid the abuse and those who could not escape Samson were subjected to violent physical and sexual attacks.
In 2013 he was jailed for 14 years at the High Court in Edinburgh after being found guilty of offences involving sexual abuse and the rape of 12 children.
Eight of these offences happened at the Kirk-run care home with others occurring at different locations across Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Kim Leslie, specialist abuse lawyer and partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, led the civil action against the Kirk on the grounds of vicarious liability.
“Ian Samson was rightly jailed for abuse he inflicted upon children after exploiting his position with the Church of Scotland.
“The significant sum secured for our clients also gives you an idea of just how extreme Ian Samson was and how horrifically our clients suffered – in terms of settlements made public against religious groups, this is certainly the highest value I’m aware of in the 20 years I’ve practised law.
“Sadly, there will be other brave survivors who have fallen victim to similar campaigns of abuse and to them I would say stay strong, keep going and when you’re ready to talk or take action then there’s a wealth of support for you when the time is right.”
A Church of Scotland spokeswoman said:
“The abuses perpetrated by Ian Samson at Lord and Lady Polwarth Home in the 1970s are matters which have been examined by the criminal courts and by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and for which we have expressed our deep and sincere regret.
“We became aware of the full facts in 2013 at which point we offered our full support to the victims.
“While Samson’s abuse of children was wider than his activity in Lord and Lady Polwarth Home, it felt important to us that there was full acknowledgment of the harm which did occur in our care at the time, and the longer-term consequences for three siblings involved.”
The spokeswoman said the Church had carried out a full independent review of the circumstances so it could learn lessons for its safeguarding practices today.
The statement concluded:
“Whilst this settlement can never undo what has been done, we hope that it finally brings a sense of justice to the individuals affected and provides some small redress for the trauma which they experienced while in our care.”
The sum recovered from the Kirk emerged following the opening last week of a £10m redress scheme for abuse survivors.
It will be available to people who have a terminal illness or are aged 70 or over and has been introduced ahead of a wider payment scheme that is due to open in 2021.
Janine Rennie, chief executive of Wellbeing Scotland, said she hopes the compensation opens the floodgates for survivors to come forward but acknowledged money cannot compensate for a life of abuse.
She told BBC Scotland: “I think there should be multi-millions for every survivor who’s been abused in a care setting.
“For many of the people we’re working with, they’re unable to work and that can be through physical health issues or mental health issues.
“Many suffer from complex PTSD and that means a lot are unable to leave their house.”
Ms Rennie said around two thirds have been unable to achieve any kind of employment at all and many didn’t have an education.
“How do you compensate for that and how do you compensate for a survivor who from morning to night in their life wants to complete suicide?
“For many of the survivors in this situation it’ll be too late because many of them will have already completed suicide or many will have died natural causes.”
Ms Rennie said she has worked with 2,500 people who were abused in care but stressed that is only the people who have come forward.
She described the true scale of the problem as “potentially massive”.
Main image copyright: Google
First published 30.04.19: