A team of legal specialists in Portsmouth is taking an increasingly high profile role at the centre of the most shocking child abuse scandal the UK has ever known.
As the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, IICSA, carries out its long-awaited public hearings as part of an investigation into the running of children’s homes in London which has engulfed Lambeth Borough Council in accusations of alleged negligence, physical and sexual abuse, corruption and conspiracy, a growing number of victims are turning to legal practice Verisona Law to have their voices heard.
‘We have managed, and are currently dealing with, over 290 cases in the past two years, so far securing £6.7 million for nearly 200 claims through Lambeth Borough Council’s compensation scheme,’ says Marie Forbes, a Historic Abuse solicitor who heads up the team located in Portsmouth’s 1000 Lakeside offices. ‘We represent One of the largest groups of core participants giving evidence in the investigation.’
Verisona Law is one of the specialist law firms working in partnership with The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, SOSA, set up by Raymond Stevenson and Lucia Hinton which began its own investigation into Lambeth children’s homes Angell Road, Monkton House, Ivy House, South Vale, and – most notorious of all – Shirley Oaks Children’s Home, which Lambeth owned and ran from 1965 until its closure in 1983.
Since Shirley Oaks Children’s Home was able to accommodate up to 400 children in Lambeth Borough Council’s care at any one time, SOSA was able to galvanise over 1,600 individuals to give evidence in an interim report that identified 120 paedophiles and resulted in Lambeth Borough Council setting up a £100 million redress scheme for claims of physical, racial, sexual and psychological abuse, many cases resulting in learning and physical disabilities.
‘As revelations are being made public in the current IICSA hearings, we are receiving more and more enquiries by email, phone and text of people wanting to confide their experiences and find out what help is available to them,’ says Lisa Gafarov, who has been present on every day of the IICSA public hearings, her work including statements and transcripts contain the evidence of clients she represents.
‘Over the course of 55 years, people have moved around the country, some across the world and we are hearing from people still in London, locally in Hampshire, elsewhere in the UK and all over the globe, each with their own, often quite harrowing story.’
Even with all the support and resources of such an established law firm, recent months have presented challenges for the team to overcome.
‘Initially, we were able to engage with enquiries through email, phone and video calls, then, when it was safe, members of the team have been in the office to support clients,’ explains Marie. ‘Most recently, we have started travelling for socially distanced meetings with those who wanted to meet in person, so we can honestly say that COVID-19 has not affected our response or performance.’
Verisona Law continues to support abuse survivors from all backgrounds. Contact Lisa Gafarov at email@example.com, on 023 9244 6916 or text 07384 796272.
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