Historic Child Abuse

We believe that representing a survivor of sexual abuse is about much more than knowing the law. Above all, it is about helping victims feel whole again.

Our work is dedicated to serving those who have suffered child sex abuse and is driven by the UK and international legal expertise of Dr. Ann Olivarius, Dr. Jef McAllister, Shereen Kulczynska, and a specialist legal team of sexual abuse and PI lawyers.

We have won landmark cases that have extended protections for victims of sexual abuse and helped thousands of people obtain justice. We use our litigation experience and skills to work for those who have been harmed by trusted institutions and individuals (including clergy, teachers, relatives, partners and others in a position of trust). 

To start on your path toward recovery, please call us now on +44 (0)20 3048 5959 or fill in our contact form. You will be put in touch with an experienced member of our legal team who will work with you to determine how you can get justice from the person or institution that caused you harm.

Image of AO Advocates logo.

In 2022, McAllister Olivarius fully incorporated its sister firm, AO Advocates. All ongoing representations, including those related to the Lambeth Redress Scheme, will now be handled by McAllister Olivarius.

We specialise in claims against

Religious institutions

Abuse in religious institutions

Abuse at the hands of a religious leader can be traumatising and isolating. We have brought cases against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholic Church, certain sects of Buddhism, and ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Judaism.

Victims of abuse may be told that they are no longer welcome in their religious community because of what happened. But abuse is never the victim’s fault – no matter the circumstance.

Schools

Abuse in schools

Schools and other educational institutions have a duty to safeguard the children in their care. If abuse takes place within a school, whether it is perpetrated by a teacher, other staff member or fellow pupil, the school has a responsibility to respond.

Victims often find that it takes a long time for the full impact of their abuse to register, with consequences such as depression, difficulties maintaining relationships or finding employment, and drug or alcohol dependency only appearing years after their abuse took place. Courts recognise that it may take time before victims can come to terms with their abuse. Even if you are over the age of 21, you can bring a claim of child abuse.

McAllister Olivarius has helped many survivors bring claims against their abusers or the schools or councils that were responsible. We understand that abuse is a difficult subject to talk about, and our team will handle any information that you give us with sensitivity and the strictest confidence.

We have brought many successful cases against schools and local authorities throughout the UK, including St Bede’s College, Manchester, Winterfold House, St George’s School, Windsor and Derbyshire County Council (Gayton Junior School). We know that money cannot undo the damage caused by abuse, but we hope it can give you peace of mind and allow you to begin rebuilding your life.

Children’s homes

Abuse in children’s homes

Abuse in children’s homes is exploitation of one of the country’s most vulnerable populations. When adults who have a duty of care to a child fail to keep that child safe, it can be devastating. McAllister Olivarius has brought claims on behalf of hundreds of victims of historic abuse, winning compensation from several prominent children’s homes and local authorities such as Lambeth Council, Hertfordshire County Council and Derbyshire County Council.

Sports and youth clubs

Abuse in sports and youth clubs

In recent years, several former youth football players have come forward to speak about abuse they experienced at the hands of their coaches. Abuse from a coach or trusted mentor in a sports club can be frightening and disorientating. Abuse can be emotional, physical or sexual and can take place over days, months, or even years. No matter the kind or duration of abuse, it can have an impact.

Paul Stewart talks about abuse in football​Paul Stewart talks about abuse in football​

If you or someone you know is being abused, or you suspect an adult in a sports or youth club to be abusing a child, contact the police immediately. They can take action to protect you or any children that may be in danger.

Our work on behalf of victims of historic sex abuse

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses

    Over the past few years, multiple cases of child abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses have been exposed in the media. We have represented several clients who were abused by Elders and Ministerial Servants in their congregations.

    Read more
  • Lambeth Children’s Homes Redress Scheme

    Lambeth Council set up a two-part Redress Scheme for people who, as children, were abused or feared being abused at a Lambeth Children’s Home, and/or Shirley Oaks Primary School. To date, McAllister Olivarius has secured almost £4m in compensation for our clients under the Redress Scheme.

    Read more

Historic Child Abuse FAQs

What happens if I bring a civil law claim for historic sexual abuse?

McAllister Olivarius works solely on civil sexual abuse claims, i.e., claims for compensation. Only the criminal courts can put someone in prison. However, it is possible to have your abuser subjected to cross-examination, declared guilty and ordered to pay you compensation by a civil court.

How much will it cost me to bring a claim?

At McAllister Olivarius we feel strongly that justice should not depend on your ability to pay legal costs. Typically, we will not expect you to pay anything upfront. Most of the work we do with victims of historic sex abuse is undertaken on a no win, no fee basis. This means that if we are successful, our fees will be paid by the other side. We will also secure insurance for you, so that if you lose your claim you are protected from having to pay the costs the defendants have incurred.

There can be some costs associated with bringing a claim. These might include, for example, paying a psychiatrist to evaluate the effect the abuse has had on your life. Most clients pay these directly, but this is not always the case. If you would like to speak with a member of our team about this further, please get in touch.

The abuse happened a long time ago. Can I still claim?

We understand that the effects of childhood sexual abuse are enduring and that coming to terms with your abuse can be an unpredictable process. Many survivors are unable to speak about it for decades. It can be harder to bring a claim if the abuse happened a long time ago, but many old claims can still succeed. Whether your claim is likely to prevail in law depends on several facts, and we will conduct a careful investigation before advising you whether we think you should proceed.

What happens if the person who abused me has died?

The death of your abuser does not necessarily stop you from bringing a claim for compensation. If your abuse took place during your time at an institution, such as a school, youth group or church, and you were abused by an employee of that institution, you may be able to bring a claim directly against the organisation itself.

How is a claim brought against an institution that employed my abuser?

Cases brought against institutions rely on the principle of ‘vicarious liability,’ under which it must be proven that the individual who perpetrated the abuse was put in a position of trust by their employer.

Once we establish vicarious liability, we will develop your case to get you the compensation you deserve. This may include gathering records that show how the abuse has affected you and arranging for you to visit a psychiatrist who can provide an independent analysis of your case. We know this can be a difficult process, but our solicitors will guide you through every step.

My abuser has never been convicted; can I still bring a claim?

Civil claims can proceed without a criminal conviction. Even if you have not reported your abuse to the police, you still may be able to bring a claim for compensation. Generally, it is easier to bring a civil claim if your abuser has been convicted, because the police will already have records and evidence documenting the abuse, but each case is unique. If you would like to speak about the specifics of your case, please contact us.

Do I have to bring my claim in court?

Even if you do not wish to take your abuser to court, you can still claim compensation for the harm you have suffered. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a government funded scheme which provides compensation to people who have suffered abuse. Awards under this scheme range from £1,000 to £500,000. This may be a good option if you wish to pursue an individual who cannot afford to compensate you or if your abuser has died.

A CICA claim is designed to be a last resort for those who cannot pursue another method of compensation. If we believe that this is the best option for you, we will talk you through the process and give you advice on your application.

Will details of my case be shared with anyone else?

As lawyers we are bound by strict confidentiality rules. We have nearly 30 years of experience dealing with victims of sexual abuse and are sympathetic to concerns over confidentiality. We will do everything in our power to ensure that you feel respected and protected throughout your time with us.

Client feedback

“Having to go into detail about unsavoury things from my past which I have kept buried for years was made much easier by the very calm and understanding nature of the team at McAllister Olivarius.”
(Confidential client, historic child abuse case)

“I want to thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do for the victims of sexual abuse in care homes. It must help many of the victims to get redress and recognition of the abuse they suffered whilst in the care of people who were meant to help them. At times it must be harrowing, and it certainly cannot be easy for you to deal with it. I very much appreciate all that you have done and are doing to help those who, at the time of their lives when they needed help, were instead abused in the most horrific way. I have the utmost respect for you and your team.”
(Confidential client, Lambeth Redress Scheme)

I’m very pleased I chose to approach McAllister Olivarius. It’s been a pleasure (as much as that’s possible under the circumstances!) working with you and getting to know you, and you’ve handled things with great sensitivity and humanity, for which I’m very grateful, and without which this all might not have been possible.
(Confidential client, historic child abuse case)

“I really don’t think my case would have been successful had you not been working on it. Thank you for listening properly to what I was trying to say, and then interpreting coherently for others to understand.”
(Confidential client, historic child abuse case)

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, call us now on +44 (0)20 3048 5959 or fill in our contact form to schedule a free and confidential discussion about your options.

A client shares his story of sexual abuseA client shares his story of sexual abuse
BBC Home Editor Mark Easton interviews Dr. Ann Olivarius, Senior Partner of AO Advocates, about compensation in child abuse claims, and client Rick Merrin about sexual abuse at St Bede’s College in Manchester.

I will always be grateful for your unwavering support of me. Equally, I will always be grateful for showing me how to find my voice and strength.

Title IX case against UCLA, client confidential

It was such a weight off our shoulders; suddenly somebody else with a lot more experience was managing the case.

Sandeep Mander, Mander v. Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

We really thought that there was nothing that anybody could do for us. We were wrong.

Dr Celeste Kidd, Aslin et al v. University of Rochester et al

To get the result you got you must be as tough with your legal opposites as you are kind and understanding to your clients.

AOA client, confidential

Compared with other law firms I’ve worked with, no one matches the combination that McO has of experience, brilliance, ferocious fighting and deep empathy for their clients.

Dr Holly Atkinson, Atkinson et al v. Mount Sinai Health System, Inc. et al

Because my case could not bear public scrutiny, a very powerful institution used massive financial resources to try to crush me for asking for my disability rights. This was a huge mistake, as they didn’t know that I would obtain McO representation. I couldn’t ask for better representation.

Disability Rights client, confidential

I would like to say from bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you to all the team. Now I can go and forget my former employer. God bless you all.

Unfair Dismissal client, confidential