Institutional abuse survivors at 22 institutions run by churches, charities, and state bodies in Northern Ireland have reportedly refused to accept compensation of £1,500 that was offered in response to a disturbing identity leak incident in June.
In May this year, an email sent by the office of Interim Victims’ Commissioner Brendan McAllister disclosed the names and email addresses of as many as 250 abuse survivors who survived institutional abuse at twenty-two institutions in Northern Ireland over the past 73 years.
As Interim Victims’ Advocate, McAllister participated in the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry that was initiated last year to investigate allegations of abuse at a number of institutions in the region. The inquiry recommended that all the abuse survivors be offered a compensation of between£7,500 and £100,000 in lump-sum payments.
However, a monthly newsletter signed by a staff member from the office of Mr. McAllister disclosed the names and email addresses of 250 abuse survivors, forcing a survivor to state that they felt “dishonoured, exposed, vulnerable and let down so badly” due to the disclosure.
In response to the massive data breach that received widespread coverage, Mr. McAllister’s office offered a financial compensation of £1,500 to the 250 victims. Not only was the offer promptly rejected, the victims are now seeking adequate compensation and are in discussions with the Executive Office.
Affected abuse survivors seeking adequate damages for data leak
According to BBC, law firm KRW Law as well as solicitor Claire McKeegan have been approached by abuse survivors to represent them during the negotiations. "It is likely we will proceed to obtain expert medical evidence on behalf of our clients, in order to quantify the impact of this appalling situation," McKeegan said.
Commenting on the fresh compensation claim made by victims of the data breach, Tony Pepper, CEO of Egress, said this should however serve as a timely wake-up call to all organisations which directly or indirectly handle customer data, or the data of users associated with third parties, that complacency is not acceptable and could have severe financial ramifications.
Stating that a class action taken by the affected victims via legal firms could see compensation ranging from £7,500 - £100,000 per person, Pepper said that with the escalation in the number of ‘no win no fee’ data breach compensation specialists in the market, it has never been more critical for organisations to get a firm grip on the security of the data they handle and have a clear understanding of their risk exposure.
"Because whilst we may have seen recent reductions in fines handed out by the ICO to the likes of BA, data breach compensation specialists will be far more aggressive in their bid for adequate compensation," he added.