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Fornethy House: First civil case lodged by alleged child abuse victim

Fornethy House in Kilry, Angus.
Fornethy House in Kilry, Angus.

A woman who claims she was abused while attended a residential school in rural Angus has lodged a civil court case to seek justice for the trauma she says she suffered.

It is the first time action has been lodged by one of 200 alleged victims of abuse at Fornethy House in Kilry during the 60s and 70s.

The residential home opened in 1961 and was owned by Glasgow Corporation, (now Glasgow City Council) the city’s local authority at the time.

Former pupils around the ages they attended Fornethy House.

Young girls of primary school age would visit for six to eight weeks at a time, on the pretence they were going on holiday.

It closed in 1993 and has remained derelict ever since.

Two years ago, allegations rose of abuse endured by children while staying at Fornethy House by women now aged in their 60s and 70s.

Since then, more than 200 women have come forward with similar claims of abuse and nobody has been brought to justice yet.

‘Test case’ successfully lodged

Solicitors who represent the group – now known as the ‘Fornethy House Residential School Survivors’ – say the fight for justice is “going in the right direction” as the first civil court case of a victim has been lodged against Glasgow City Council.

The hearing is being used as a “test case”, in the hopes the results will “lead the way” for other victims of Fornethy wishing to take civil action and hold the authority accountable for the alleged abuse.

Laura Connor who represents the Fornethy group at Thompsons solicitors said: “I am pleased to confirm a Fornethy ‘test case’ has now successfully been raised in court.

“This case is leading the way for the Fornethy group, and we have every confidence that it will prove successful.”

Hearing will help with ‘evidence gathering’

She added: “It covers a number of issues which ought to assist with the evidence gathering process for the other cases.

“It’s very representative of what we hear from many of our [Fornethy] clients and if this case is successful it could lead to many other successful cases.

“I’m pleased for our clients that it’s reached this point and I hope they can take some encouragement from that as I appreciate that civil litigation can move slowly at times but it is going in the right direction.”

A provisional date for the hearing has been set for October this year and will take place at the specialist personal injury court within Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

‘Step in right direction’

Marion Reid, 64, who was one of the first victims to publicly come forward with claims of abuse and represents the Fornethy women, said the group are “delighted” with the news.

She said: “It’s brilliant news for the girls, I’m just hoping the test case wins.

“It’s a step in the right direction but it is going to be quite hard to face initially.

“I’m quite sure the majority of us would hate to go to court but if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.”

Marion Reid (right) and Carol Whyte, who say they were abused at Fornethy House in the 60s.

Marion added: “I’ve not come this far for it not to happen, it’s what we’ve got to do.

“I’ve waited 55 years to get some sort of acknowledgement but we’ve still got a long way to go.

“There’s 200 of us – Fornethy took 75 girls a year and it was open for 30 years so there’s hundreds still out there

“When you’ve been waiting to get closure for all these years and finally get to that point it’s a bit daunting but it is really positive for us.”

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “Council officers are helping police with their enquiries.

“Our claims department is now in receipt of 159 claims and acknowledgements for these claims have been sent to Thompsons.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Fight continues for compensation

The Fornethy group recently launched a petition and plan to protest outside Holyrood at the end of this month over a decision made by the Scottish Government deeming the residential house victims exempt from financial compensation.

Marion said the news about the “test” court hearing does not change the group’s stance on their entitlement for redress as victims of historic child abuse in Scotland cannot seek civil damages in court if the abuse occurred before September 1964.

She said: “The majority – if not all the girls – are not in it for the money, that’s never what this was ever about – it’s closure.

Fornethy School near Kilry, Angus.

“Redress is most important for the 61 women who couldn’t go for a civil court case because they were at Fornethy before September 1964.

“We want to be offered redress to be acknowledged and treated equally to other victims of historic child abuse.”

Criminal investigation ongoing

Detective Inspector Mark Lamont from Police Scotland’s Tayside Division, said: “In complex and challenging investigations such as this we work very closely with the Procurator Fiscal Service  and we keep them regularly updated as enquiries progress.

“This investigation remains ongoing .

“All reports of child abuse will be fully investigated and we are committed to bring perpetrators to justice.

“I would encourage anybody who has been the victim of abuse, either recently or in the past, to please come forward and report the matter to us.”

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