The Court of Appeal will today rule on an interesting claim for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
The claim is brought on behalf of a child who suffered serious damage in the womb as a result of the mother’s excessive drinking.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is unfortunately a condition we regularly see in the clients we act for. As Solicitors who specialise in victims of child abuse we regularly find that children are suffering even before they are born because of their parent’s addiction to alcohol.
The problems that our clients suffer as a result of abuse can be exacerbated where they already have Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. It is a very difficult condition to diagnose and can have devastating effects.
The decision in the Court of Appeal put simplistically is whether deliberate abuse of alcohol by a mother during pregnancy can constitute a crime for the purposes of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. This is a publically funded body which compensates victims of crime. Normally the claims would be for violent crimes such as assaults. We deal with a large volume of claims for the victims of physical and sexual abuse.
If the Court of Appeal find in favour of the Claimant today the extent of the scheme will be extended to allow potential claims for the victims of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. These will be high value claims and the difficulty I foresee is whether the Court of Appeal can be persuaded that a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy comes within the terms of the scheme, which normally expect there to be a crime of violence causing injury.