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.

VICTIM: She shows total lack of remorse

THE VICTIM of Bridge Meehan last night expressed her disappointment at the sentence handed to the self-confessed child abuser – and her continuing refusal to apologise. Mary Meehan said her stepmother had shown a “total lack of remorse” for the harm inflicted on her, at a time when she was still grieving the loss of her mother from cancer.

Mary Meehan in tears outside Belfast Crown Court yesterday after her stepmother Bridge Meehan was sentenced for cruelty and assault against her when she was 10 years old.

The former Sinn Fein councillor, who once revelled in the notoriety gained from her marriage to the late Martin Meehan, barked “no comment” at reporters who asked yesterday if she would appoligise. She pushed the media out of her path and muttered expletives as she left the Laganside court complex. Neighbours in Addoyne who spoke to The Irish News back in 2010, when details of the case first came to light, described Mary prior to her mother’s death as happy, well cared-for child who could be seen with biws in her hair playing in the front garden of the family’s Northwick Drive home. However, after her mother’s death and imprisonment of her father, his new girlfriend Briege McLaughlin moved into the family home and took an immediate dislike to the little girl who so closely resembled her mother.

She had walked out on her husband to take up with newly widowed Martin Meehan and this resulted in her being shunned by many in the close-knit community of Ardoyne. Resentful of the affection in which the woman she replaced was held, she appeared to take her anger out on her namesake daughter. Neighbours reported hearing nightly screams from the little girl. Mary developed a stammer and was rarely seen out of her bedroom. On occasions she did attend Holy Cross Girls School she was dirty and unkempt. Social services received calls after she was seen on three seperate occasions with black eyes. Mary Meehan said despite her guilty plea, her late father’s widow has shown no remorse for her actions. “I only ever wanted Briege to admit what she had done to me after all these years,” she said. “She may have pleaded guilty but even then it seemed to be something she was doing to save herself from prison rather than to clear her conscience. “I was disappointed at the leniency of the sentence but more upset that she has never apoligised or even a shred of remorse. “I can only thank my family, friends and children who have supported me throughout this difficult process. “I just want to put it behind me now and move on with the rest of my life.”

With many thanks to : Allison Morris, The Irish 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.

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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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