Ex-prisoners win compensation via Redress Board

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Two former republican prisoners beaten behind bars as teenagers are to receive five-figure compensation payouts via an unusual route.

The awards were made to north Belfast men Francis Hamilton and Patrick Harkin in claims determined by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Redress Board, which has been examining sexual and physical abuse of children in the north of Ireland.

Lawyers for the pair said their cases are among an increasing number of former prisoners awarded compensation for what they suffered as youths. Both men’s applications to the HIA Redress Board included abusive treatment at St Patrick’s Training School.

Importantly, Mr Hamilton also claimed over his treatment while being held at Crumlin Road Prison and Long Kesh between 1974 and 1975, where he endured heavy levels of physical abuse from both staff and other prisoners

One incident involved the deployment of CS nerve gas and being beaten by British Army soldiers when a fire broke out at the Long Kesh internment camp in October 1974. He was beaten and forced to run a gauntlet in order to get food which, at times, amounted to just two slices of bread and a single glass of milk per day.

Mr Hamilton recalled one soldier stating: “That child’s petrified, he shouldn’t even be here.”

A claim was also brought on behalf of Mr Harkin over his treatment after being remanded at Crumlin Road Prison as a 14-year-old in 1974. He was repeatedly slapped and punched in the face by prison warders as well as living with constant threats from other prisoners.

Mr Harkin described being put into a punishment cell because he was too young to go into the general prison population, and removed to a hospital wing on 23-hour lock up.

Their legal representatives, KRW Law, has revealed that they are to receive “significant five-figure compensation sums”.

Padraig McIlkinney, of the Belfast firm’s Historic Abuse and Redress Department said: “The unacceptable conditions Frankie and Paddy had to live in typified the abuse suffered by so many other detained children during this time in the conflict.”

Mr McIlkinney added: “I am pleased that once again we have seen some State recognition of the ordeals sustained by ex-political prisoners. I commend the HIA (Redress Board) in their decision making.”

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