A woman has been awarded 375,000 euros in damages in the High Court in Dublin after her father sexually abused her as a child. Ailish Smith, now aged 38, waived her right to anonymity in the Court proceedings so that her father, Gerard Smith, could be publicly named.

Ms Smith, of Clarehall in Dublin, was sexually abused her over a period of ten years commencing in 1976. Her father was sentenced in 2006 to six years in jail with two of those years suspended. He had pleaded guilty to five charges during the trial in relation to serious sexual abuse during the 1980’s.

Ms Smith suffered the abuse, which happened when her mother was not in the house, between the ages of 2 and 12. During the court proceedings, Ms Smith revealed that the abuse had had a devastating effect on her life. It has emerged that Ailish informed her mother of the abuse when she was 16; but her mother had responded with “it wasn’t too bad – he didn’t rape you’. Ms Smith maintains that her parents warned her that if she came forward about the abuse nobody would believe her and she would be thrown into a mental hospital.

The High Court in Dublin today ruled that Ms Smith should receive €375,000 in damages. There had been questions as to whether the victim was too late in her pursuit of a damages claim under the Statute of Limitations. Mr Justice Eamon de Velera stated, however, that the limitation did not apply in the case because Ms Smith was impaired up until 2004. Psychiatrist Professor Patricia Casey stated that Ailish was traumatized by the criminal proceedings against her father in 2006, adding that lack of support from her mother most likely prevented the victim from coming forward at an earlier time.

Mr Justice Eamon de Velera’s comments regarding the Statute of Limitation highlight an important issue – that where historic abuse is concerned, the rules of limitation can be avoided. Indeed, in many cases that we deal with, which involve historic abuse that took place when the victim was a child, we have been able to overcome the usual limitation – helping victims of abuse to claim the damages to which they should rightly be entitled.

If you have been affected by any of the above issues and would like to speak to a specialist solicitor experienced in helping victims of abuse, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our understanding team will be able to advise you of your options regarding making a claim for sexual abuse.