A ‘CFA’ is a Conditional Fee Agreement – in plain English it is a type of insurance that will ensure you do not receive a bill for the time and effort expended by your legal team – even if you lose the case. In other words, you can mount a legal challenge at no risk to yourself. If you win, you get your ‘compo’ and your legal team gets paid by the person you sued; if you lose you don’t have to pay your legal team. If you lose the case, there are some expenses – such as the cost of a medical examination to determine the extent of your ‘injuries’ – which the solicitor may have paid on your behalf, which you could be liable for.
This is where something called an ‘ATE’ (After The Event insurance) comes in. The ATE pays those costs – and heaven forbid, you might have been landed with your opponents legal costs if the court so decided. Between the CFA and the ATE, they ensure that even if you are penniless, that is no reason not to have first class lawyers mounting the best possible case on your behalf – at no risk whatsoever to yourself.
There have been some changes to this system since April of this year. If you win the case, prior to April 2013, the person you sued had to pay a ‘success fee‘ to your legal team – sometimes as much as double their normal fees! Lawyers, not surprisingly, chose not to take on cases they thought might lose – they have mortgages and school fees to pay like everybody else, but assuming that you won – or the case was settled out of court, as it is with 90% of personal injury cases, they could look forward to a bonanza pay-day. For claimants it was a case of ‘we’ve got nothing to lose either way’. For the person you were suing, it was a case of ‘is it worth fighting this case in court, because the legal fees could dwarf our loss’. As a result of the Jackson Review one important change is that YOU now have to pay the success fee out of your ‘compo’. A small gesture towards the invidious position the person you sued finds themselves in if they wish to contest the claim.
From 1 April new rules on conditional fee agreements (CFAs) come into force. Clients who enter into a CFA on or after 1 April will have to pay the success fee and any after-the-event (ATE) premium from their damages.
These changes have been brought about by sections 44 and 46 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and the Conditional Fee Agreements Order 2013.
Not that this matters in the slightest to the claims I am about to discuss, because fortuitously for everyone except the person being sued – all these claims were commenced prior to April 2013, and so escape the new regulations.
Since it is the all important ‘Duncroft’ allegations – more properly the 2007 ’Operation Ornament‘ allegations – which ARE all important, for had ‘Operation Ornament’ not existed there would have been NO ‘Savile effect’, no turmoil with heads rolling at the BBC, and no multi billion pound compensation claims preventing the charities involved from receiving the money that Savile had left to them, there are one or two important facts to be spelt out to those who may have overlooked them, before you read on…
The ‘child protection industry’ has spent untold millions convincing all of us that ‘child abuse victims’ are always to be believed and are all ’innocent of blame’ young children, preferably in winsome too long nightdresses clutching teddy bears. ‘Tis true, all child abuse victims ARE all innocent of blame. However, child abuse ‘claimants’ are not necessarily in the same category despite ‘Operation Yewtree’s‘ best endeavours to persuade us all that claimants and victims are one and the same thing. They are NOT.
One of the criticisms levelled at my continuing desire to get to the bottom of the Duncroft allegations is ‘but you weren’t there then, you don’t know what these poor girls had to put up with’. Not precisely true. I WAS there during the period covered by the first public Duncroft allegation, Bebe Robert’s fantasy story of Savile roaming round the very dormitory I was sleeping in, when I was sleeping there, terrorising innocent young girls. To say I was incredulous would be to put it mildly. Bebe Robert’s was promptly dumped by the little group of girls pushing their tale of rampant paedophilia by Savile in the 1960s. She was ‘misguided’, she was ‘only trying to help them obtain justice’. But the rest of them were absolutely telling the truth of what had occurred in the 1970s they said – and I wasn’t there then…
So what had changed in the 1970s? NOT the staff, that was for sure. The same people were still living cheek by jowl with a group of truculent teenage girls, still dedicating their lives to helping them sort out their lives. The buildings had barely changed, other than a spanking new education block. Two things had changed though. First, the school-leaving age had been raised to 16.
Duncroft was a social experiment from the late 50s to see if girls who had stepped off the rigid social requirement of being a ‘good girl’ could be returned to society as reasonable and useful human beings. A decade earlier, those who were unmarried mothers had found themselves incarcerated for life in institutions – even those who were victims of sexual abuse. Likewise those who played truant. Or went home in the pouring rain wearing a rain coat from the coat rack that they had not properly asked permission to borrow. In my own case, an unhappy home life had resulted in a suicide attempt before suicide stopped being criminal offence.
Duncroft was to be a half way house between the mythical ‘good girl’ status, and a life consigned to perhaps prostitution or other criminal activity by way of earning a living. We were to be given a second chance at catching up on the education we had missed, gain those all important qualifications, and given a helping hand to find a more liberal-minded employer who might consider having one of society’s rehabilitated ‘bad girls’ on his premises. If you think it is hard finding a job today, you should try being a ‘bad girl’ back in the ultra conservative 60s!
Alongside Miss Jones driving this second chance at education, there were also two psychiatrists to attend to any lingering emotional problems we might have – and certainly some of the girls were utterly innocent victims of paedophilia, sometimes within their own family. My best friend at Duncroft was. She spent years trying to starve herself to death to escape her memories. I am under no illusion as to the damage that sexual abuse can do to a child.
Whereas there had been no duty to educate us in the 1960s as ‘school-leavers’, by the 1970s government had a duty to deliver full-time education to 14 and 15 year olds. This had given the government a problem, for in the 1970s it was no longer considered socially acceptable to consign young people to a mental hospital no matter how profound their mental health issues. Sometimes, those mental health issues required the person to be securely confined – but mental hospitals don’t have education blocks. Duncroft was such a secure environment, it had adequate educational facilities, and two resident psychiatrists experienced with teenage girls – what more could a government with a problem ask for?
Duncroft was promptly taken away from the Home Office and given to MIND, the mental health authority.
One such person in the care of MIND in the 1970s was Mary Bell. I can mention her name because she has long since been given a new identity. Mary, aged 10, had calmly murdered a four-year old child, and then a year later, murdered another three-year old child. Mary plainly needed to be in a very secure environment, she plainly needed to have serious psychiatric help – and she was still entitled to a full-time education. Precisely the environment that Duncroft could provide.
I ask you to keep Mary Bell firmly in mind, and forget that ‘mythical child in the too long night-dress’ as we go through the Duncroft allegations – not out of ‘victim blaming’, for nothing Mary Bell had ever done would justify turning a blind eye to anyone abusing her, however ‘mildly’, but because in order to believe the Duncroft allegations then you have to believe that those same sturdy sensible women who kept us so securely safe in the 1960s unanimously took leave of their senses in the 1970s and were cheerfully letting children like Mary Bell, entrusted to them by MIND, wander at will in the BBC corridors, and flit in and out of Duncroft as they pleased…
Credulous lawyers giving advice to the multi-million pound entities currently being sued might believe it – but I remain incredulous!
The only thing that had changed from my time at Duncroft, was not the buildings, not the sturdy nature of the staff – but the fact that those consigned to Duncroft by MIND needed even more of a watchful eye than we did. The possibility of losing your career and your pension by a moment’s inattention had quadrupled.
That’s more than enough from me today – tomorrow I shall tell you just how those original Duncroft allegations have blossomed under the care and tutelage of an army of CFA and ATE empowered lawyers, to the point that it has taken me all week-end to even begin to match the schedule of compensation claims that I have in front of me with the tales as told to television companies and indeed the police back in 2007.
But then I don’t suppose the Duncroft girls ever thought that anyone might ask someone who actually knew what they were talking about in respect of Duncroft to look through the claims….
After all, aren’t claimants the same as victims, and aren’t victims to be believed? Isn’t that what the nice policeman said?