Simpson Millar are marking the 20th anniversary of their dedicated abuse department. The firm, which is home to some of the most highly respected child abuse lawyers in the country, took on their first abuse case in 1994.
Established in 1985 as a full service firm, it went on to develop a niche market in child abuse compensation claims. Apart from representing clients in obtaining compensation for the abuse they suffered, the firm is also known for campaigning for the rights of child abuse victims. Working with survivor groups such as NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood) and Survivors Manchester, the firm has been involved in a number of successful campaigns over the years.
One campaign was set up to prevent the government from implementing their supplementary legal aid scheme which was designed to take 25% of the claimant’s compensation even after all money advanced by the Legal Services Commission was repaid. In September 2012 the Government reversed their legal aid policy, which would have taken money from victims.
In 2007 the firm launched their dedicated abuse site, the aim of which was to provide easy access to information for child and adult survivors of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. The site was well received by survivor groups and legal professionals alike.
Peter Garsden, the principal of Simpson Millar and the head of the abuse department, continues to campaign for the introduction of a mandatory reporting law in his capacity as President of ACAL (Association of Child Abuse Lawyers). Along with four further survivor charities, he is petitioning Education Secretary Michael Gove to introduce a new law forcing schools, faith groups, sports bodies, the NHS, and nurseries, to inform their local authority of all allegations and incidents of suspected and known abuse. Presently, no such legal obligation exists.
The firm of specialist abuse solicitors are also the lead solicitors representing abuse victims in the largest ever group action for alleged child abuse against Manchester City Council, for abuse in children’s homes run by the city council’s social services from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. In 2007 the firm represented 168 claimants in the first group action in which they managed to secure compensation amounting to nearly £2,260,000. In 2009 High Court clearance was given to set up a second group of alleged victims. The two group actions added together mean that the compensation paid out to date amounts to £4,302,510, which is the largest ever pay out in any abuse group action. The eventual payout is likely to be over £5 million once all the cases settle.
Commenting on this latest milestone lawyer Peter Garsden said: “When I think back to the first child abuse case we took on back in 1994, it makes me realise how different life at the firm was in those days, and how much we have achieved in 20 years. The firm has grown into a nationally recognised solicitor’s practice with an enviable reputation in a very worthwhile, specialised area of law. We have won a string of awards, and helped develop the law into the state it is today. We could not have achieved so much without the support of an outstanding team, who have many essential qualities required in the area of child abuse – passion, empathy, determination, tactical skill, and most important of all, loyalty to not only our clients, but also the cause of child abuse. We have campaigned endlessly, and succeeded in many worthy causes. We have fought and won many cases, some of which have established important legal precedent. Finally, life was so uncomplicated before child abuse came along, but I don’t regret one minute of it.”