Abuse survivor secures £120,000 from Fife Council after waiting nearly 40-years for justice

Woman sitting on bench

OUR client – known as Victim P – was repeatedly attacked by evil housemaster David Murphy.

Aged just 14-years-old, he was a resident at Linnwood Hall in Leven in 1982 when he was subjected to serious attacks that caused life-changing trauma that impacted his future.

But what made Victim P’s ordeal more tragic was how avoidable it was – because Fife Council gave Murphy the job at Linnwood despite previously banning him from working with children.

It took our client decades to come to terms with what happened – he suffered flashbacks, struggled to be close to others, was unable to hold down a job and even doubted his own identity.

But when he was ready, he asked Digby Brown’s Non-Accidental Team for help – and even though 39 years had passed since the attacks and Murphy was now dead, the team still gathered so much evidence that Fife Council accepted liability and compensated our client.

Kim Leslie, Partner and Head of the Non-Accidental team, said: “The passage of time should never prevent someone from getting the recognition they deserve.

“Yes, it can sometimes present challenges – defenders may say paperwork is no longer available or a deceased perpetrator means they cannot gather statements.

“But these challenges are not restrictions and as this case against Fife Council shows they do not prevent historical abuse claims from being settled.

“Survivors should be able to take the time they need to come to terms with what happened and seek civil recognition when they are ready – and when they are, Digby Brown will always be ready to meet them, hear them and help them consider their options.”

Fife Council’s negligence revealed

David Murphy worked at St Margaret’s Children’s Home in Elie between 1959 and 1973 but his time there ended after four former residents raised allegations of abuse.

Fife Council chose to ban Murphy from working with kids and instead gave him work as an elderly care assistant. 

But three years later in 1976 Murphy applied for a job as housemaster at Linnwood Hall in Leven and despite their own previous restrictions, Fife Council officials gave him the job.

Fast forward to 1982 and Victim P arrived at Linnwood and placed in the care of Murphy.

The vulnerable child was subjected to horrendous physical and sexual assaults and endured them for one month before finding the courage to speak up.

Sadly, it wasn’t until a criminal trial in February 2001 that the extent of Murphy’s campaign of terror would be revealed. 

He admitted to 30 offences involving 18 young boys across both St Margaret’s Children’s Home and Linnwood Hall between 1960 and 1985.

Murphy was jailed for 15 years and held at the old HMP Peterhead until his death in 2003 at the age of 72.

How Digby Brown secured historic abuse compensation 

Catherine Hammond, Senior Solicitor in the Non-Accidental Team, oversaw Victim P’s case and during the course of her investigations she obtained a copy of a report that Fife Council carried out into the abuse at St Margaret’s and Linnwood.

The report, dated January 2002 found young people were seen as “low status” and subjected to “random physical attacks”.

It also noted that “extra care should have been taken to monitor the activities of Mr Murphy” and there should have been “heightened awareness” of the risk he posed – however it stopped short of admitting officials should never have given Murphy the job of Linnwood housemaster.

Catherine then gathered evidence in support of Victim P’s claim including police reports, medical reports, psychiatric evaluations and witness statements.

A court order was also obtained to protect Victim P’s identity (which is why he cannot be named) and in turn this gave him assurances while giving evidence at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

A court action was raised on the grounds that Fife Council exposed Victim P to an unnecessary risk and after presenting the local authority with our evidence they admitted liability – the case then settled out-of-court for £120,000.

After his case settled, Victim P said: “Although I was able to describe what happened when I reported Murphy as a boy, I wasn’t able to speak about the actual impact everything had on me and my life.

“I can’t thank Digby Brown enough for their help. Even the doctors and psychiatrists really understood, were patient and took their time to help me on my own terms which helped immensely.”

Details of David Murphy’s crimes were previously reported on the BBC.