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Former resident at Hornchurch children’s home warns of ‘scandal’ of legal aid delays in sex abuse probe

PUBLISHED: 16:20 22 September 2016

St Leonard's children's home, Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch. Credit: Historic England

St Leonard's children's home, Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch. Credit: Historic England

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A man giving evidence in a public inquiry into historical child sexual abuse says the delays in legal aid funding for victims is “a scandal”.

Paul Connolly Paul Connolly

Paul Connolly, 54, of Brentwood, spent 12 years living at St Leonard’s children’s home in Hornchurch, where children – including some of Mr Connolly’s peers – were sexually abused between 1970 and 1982.

He is now a core participant in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which aims to expose past failures of institutions to protect children.

But Mr Connolly said he feared losing representation if no funding was released for victims in the inquiry.

“We are not going to be able to afford to pay the fees. It’s nonsense,” he said. “The government has asked us to come forward to take part in the inquiry. We are talking about thousands of victims whose voices could be brushed under the carpet.”

Solicitor David Enright is representing Mr Connolly, along with 20per cent of all core participants in the inquiry.

He said the limited funding meant the focus of the inquiry was “skewed” and branded it “fundamentally flawed”.

Mr Enright has been working pro bono – without charge – on the cases for a year.

Despite multiple applications for funding, the partner at Howe & Co. has not received the funds necessary to cover the legal fees.

The probe is the largest ever public inquiry and was launched following the Jimmy Savile scandal.

“All the institutions involved have unlimited resources to protect their reputation. It’s an unequal playing field,” said Mr Enright.

An IICSA spokeswoman said: “We are currently considering the applications received, including those of Mr Enright’s clients, and decisions will be made as soon as possible.

“This was not possible to grant funding at that stage for those connected with St Leonard’s because that investigation only opened for applications for core participants in the summer.”

She added that core participants are able to apply for funding for a legal team.

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