Woman abused as child by stepmother praised for role in changing ‘unfair’ redress law

A CHILD victim of horrific abuse has been praised for her part in changing the law on compensation payments.

Mary Meehan who was abused by her stepmother Briege McLaughlin – holds a family picture,
Mary Meehan was abused as a child by her stepmother Briege McLaughlin. She was originally refused compensation because of the ‘same house-hold’ rule. Under legislation dating back to 1969, payouts were not made in cases where the abuser and perpetrator lived in the same home. The law was changed in 1988 but not backdated. This was successfully challenged in the High Court by Ms Meehan in 2018. Justice Minister Naomi Long on Tuesday June 9th announced the removal of the ‘same household’ rule. This now allows fresh applications for criminal injuries compensation for victims of abuse and violent crime who were previously excluded. 

“I recognise the impact this had on all victims whose applications were refused simply because they lived with their attacker”
Naomi Long


“The same household rule was unfair and I recognise the impact on all victims whose applications were refused simply because they lived with their attacker,” the Alliance minister said. Amending the law will bring the Northern Ireland Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (NICICS) into line with Britain. Applications for retrospective payments should be made within two years. “The payment can never fully compensate for the injuries suffered, but it is recognition of the pain and suffering of victims who experienced abuse and violence perpetrated by members of their own household,” Mrs Long said.

Follow this link to find out more about Breige McLaughlin (Meehan) -: https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3205039782909107&id=100002093504519&set=a.439170419496071&source=48&ref=bookmarks

Ms Meehan waived her right to anonymity in The Irish News back in 2009, having made a complaint to the PSNI/RUC the previous year about her stepmother. A daughter of prominent republican Martin Meehan, who died suddenly in 2007, she had been subjected to around 15 months of almost constant daily physical and mental abuse at the hands of McLaughlin (Meehan) from the age of nine. She was eventually taken into care in 1980, underweight, covered in bruises and with patches of hair missing. The former Newtownabby Sinn Féin councillor pleaded guilty to two assaults and child cruelty and neglect between July 1979 and October 1980. Seven counts of alleged sexual abuse were left on the books.

ABUSE: Above Left, former Sinn Fein councillor leaves Belfast Crown Court yesterday after she was given a suspended sentente for child cruelty and assault against her stepdaughter Mary. Above left, Martin Meehan. Above right, Kevin Meehan speaks outside Belfast Crown Court yesterday on behalf of his sister Mary.

She was given a suspended sentence on the basis of her age, guilty pleasure and perceived low risk to the public. Ms Meehan would have been entitled to a criminal injury payment had she not lived with her abuser. However, the antiquated ‘same roof’ policy led to her being refused compensation. That was overturned on appeal by Lord Justice Treacy in November 2018 when he said: “We can think of no reasonable foundation for a decision to maintain in being an arbitrary exclusion of this proven victim of criminal injuries from a compensation scheme which is specifically designed to compensate such victims.”

Victim Support NI chief executive Geraldine Hanna on Tuesday June 9th praised the actions of Mary Meehan in pursuing the change to the law. “I am delighted that this discriminatory clause in the Northern Ireland Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme has finally been removed. “It has caused unimaginable hurt and pain to the victims of childhood abuse. Children do not have a choice over where they live – they cannot remove themselves from the home and live independently in order to escape the abuse. “By remaining in the household they are not consenting to the abuse they experienced – they simply had no other choice. This abuse will have affected them throughout their lives. 

“We would encourage anyone who believes they may be eligible for this compensation to contact us for independent information and support. “We thank all those who have long campaigned for this change, in particular the victims whose successful legal challenges in 2018 led to the abolition of this rule.” Speaking to The Irish News, Ms Meehan said: “I am delighted that the law has been changed and no-one else will have to through what I have. It’s been a very long journey and a stressful time. “I hope that other victims, who were maybe afraid to come forward, will see this new law and know that things have changed, hopefully for the better.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Allison Morris for the original story 


‘I feel like I’m being abused all over again’

Abuse victim Mary Meehan, holding a picture of herself as a child, has taken her case to the High Court after being refused criminal injury compensation under the ‘same roof’ rule.

A victim of horrific child abuse and neglect, denied compensation because she lived under the same roof as her abuser, has said she’s feels like she’s being abused all over again.

Mary Meehan, who waived her right to anonymity, would have been entitled to a criminal injury payment had she not lived with her abuser Briege Meehan – a former Sinn Féin councillor – but an antiquated ‘same roof’ policy has led to her being refused compensation.

Ms Meehan, currently fighting the judgment in Belfast High Court, was abused and neglected in the early 1980s by her stepmother, at the time called Briege McLaughlin, while her father, former IRA commander Martin Meehan was in prison.

Just 10-years-old at the time, she was removed from the family’s Ardoyne home by social services, following concerns raised by neighbours and teachers and placed in Lissue House Hospital.

In 2008, the year after her father’s death, Ms Meehan contacted police and reported historic child abuse at the hands of her stepmother.

In June 2013 the north Belfast woman pleaded guilty to child cruelty and assault, sex abuse charges were left on the books. The pensioner was given a suspended sentence.

Following the conviction Ms Meehan applied for a criminal injury payment only to be told that while her injury and trauma were not in question, a ‘same roof’ law which has since been changed, was not backdated to include historic cases.

There are currently two similar cases going through the courts in England and Scotland with victims refused criminal injury payments under the same legislation. In the Scottish case the victim, Monica Allen, abused as a child by her mother, is currently taking her case to the Supreme Court.

Speaking to the Irish News Ms Meehan said: “If I’d lived next door to my abuser I would have been entitled to compensation, but because, through no fault of my own, she moved into our home, my case was rejected.

“Since my abuser was convicted I’ve really struggled emotionally, I moved away from Belfast because I was constantly reminded of what happened and was taking panic attacks to the point I didn’t even want to leave the house.

“I was a child, a frightened abused child, I had no say in where I lived at the time and yet I’m being penalised for it now, I feel like I’m abused all over again.

“I feel like this isn’t just about me any more but about all the victims of historic child abuse who are currently going through the courts or have yet to come forward.

“This is a system not designed with child victims in mind and it needs changed”, she added.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Allison Morris for the origional story.


Briege Meehan sentencing adjourned

Published Tuesday, 02 July 2013


The sentencing of a former Sinn Féin councillor who pleaded guilty to child cruelty charges has been adjourned until Friday.

Briege Meegan will be sentenced on Friday. (© UTV)

Opening the prosecution case, QC Frank O’Donoghue recounted how Briege Meehan, 65, carried out a number of acts of cruelty against stepdaughter Mary Meehan over a 15-month period.

Between 14 July 14 1979 and October the following year, he told the court Meehan hit the youngster on the head with a glass baby’s bottle, forced her to smoke numerous cigarettes as a punishment and also to sleep in her urine-soaked bed.

Last month before her trial began Meehan, from Elmfield Street and the widow of the IRA’s former north Belfast commander Martin Meehan, pleaded guilty to charges of assault and cruelty towards her stepdaughter Mary when she was ten years old.

She had also been charged with seven charges of sexually abusing her stepdaughter but those were “left on the books” after she pleaded guilty to charges on an amended indictment.

At the time of the offences, the court heard, Martin Meehan was either in custody or on the run leaving Briege Meehan, who was eight months pregnant at the time, to look after his three children.

Mr O’Donoghue said the first count of assault related to an incident when Mary was tidying up a unit but was not doing it quickly enough so her stepmother hit her over the head with a glass baby bottle, knocking her unconscious.

The lawyer recounted Mary’s statement in court where she described being “covered in blood” and “screaming” in panic.

Mr O’Donoghue said Mary was at one time caught smoking so by way of punishment or deterrence, Briege Meehan forced the child to smoke an unknown number of cigarettes, adding that that incident related to a count of child cruelty while another count accused her of injuring her either with a brush shaft or a shoe.

He told the court how Mary suffered from instances of bed wetting but that her stepmother “forced her to sleep on the wet sheets”.

The lawyer said the child was eventually rescued by Social Services and placed into care in October 1980 and a medical examination revealed 20 bruises sustained while in the care of Briege Meehan.

The offences were committed while Meehan, was the then girlfriend of Martin Meehan while he was on remand in prison on IRA kidnapping charges for which he was eventually jailed for 12 years.

Mr Meehan, who died in 2007, was also the first person to be convicted of membership of the Provisional IRA.

His second wife, Briege, elected as Newtownabbey‘s first Sinn Féin councillor in 2001 and again in 2005 was suspended from the post after the allegations of abuse first surfaced in February 2009.

Defence QC Karen Quinlivan argued that whilst it was a serious matter, the level of physical abuse was “at the lower end of the scale” for which Meehan had been widely criticised in the media and her own community.

She said that Meehan had “expressed remorse” for the way she treated her stepdaughter but added that the care of all three children came about “quite abruptly” when Martin Meehan senior was put into jail and she was left filling the shoes of their mother who had tragically died from cancer.

In addition, claimed the lawyer, there was widespread disapproval from all side of hers and Martin Meehan’s family over their relationship because she was married at the time.

Releasing Meehan on continuing bail, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said he would review all the papers in the case and pass sentence on Friday.

With many thanks to:

© UTV News


‘[The victim] had 20 bruises on the head, six stitches under her left eye, cut on the right cheek, severe bruising on her inner thighs, gashes and scarabs on her back, bruises on her trunk, a burn on one foot and cuts on the other – Medical report.

FORMER Shame Fein councillor Bridge Meehan is to be sentenced today for abusing a stepdaughter left in her care more than three decades ago. Last month the former New town abbey councillor pleaded guilty to child cruelty and neglect over a 15-month period from 1979 to 1980 when Mary Meehan was 10 years old.

2013-07-02 11.14.02

Briege Meehan, a widow of IRA commander Martin Meehan, also admitted two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against the child left in her care while her father was in prison. In the first she hit the girl with a bottle in a bag, causing an injury to her head. The second attack involved either a shoe or a a broom. It caused an injury to the child’s eye that required stitches. Sexual assault charges were not proceeded with but were left on the books. Reports from social services and a nurse at Holy Cross Girls School showed that concern for the child’s welfare had been raised on several occasions.

Anonymous phone calls were also made to social services by neighbours who reported seeing the child with bruises and black eyes. Malnourished to the point of collapse, battered, bruised and locked in an attic room, Mary Meehan was eventually rescued from the house in Northwick Drive in Ardoyne by the parish priest. On October 16 1980, the day she was placed into care, a medical report stated : “When examined at Lissue she had 20 bruises on the head, six stitches under her left eye, cut on the right cheek, severe bruising on her inner thighs, gashes and scarabs on her back, bruises on her trunk, a burn on one foot and cuts on the other.” Bridge Meehan has been on bail throughout the case. Judge Gordon Kerr QC asked for pre sentencing reports and a victim impact statement to be prepared before he sentences the 65-year-old, whose address was given as Elmfield Street in North Belfast. Judge Kerr QC, adjourned the case yesterday morning to read over the new reports and put back sentencing until Friday morning 5th July.

With many thanks to : Allison Morris, The Irish News.

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