The Abbey Centre, St Patrick’s Road, Wicklow

0404 67540

What Is Sexual Abuse*?

Broadly speaking, sexual abuse is being subjected to any unwanted sexual activity. Perpetrators may use force, make threats or take advantage of victims who are not able to give consent. Anyone under the age of 17 in Ireland cannot legally give consent.

Child sexual abuse includes involving the child in any sexual acts or exposing the child to sexual activity directly or through pornography. It also includes online abuse.

For a fuller definition from Tusla – the child and family agency – read here:

Sexual Abuse Cases in Ireland

Sexual Abuse can take many forms. In most cases before the Courts in Ireland, an adult is bringing to light abuse they suffered as a child. This can happen in a variety of ways:

  • Sexual Abuse of a Child by a Third Party
  • Institutional Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse of a Child by a Family Member
  • Clerical Abuse

Taking A Sexual Abuse Case to Court

If a person has been sexually abused, they can seek to take a criminal prosecution against the perpetrator. However, they can also take a civil case for damages as well as a criminal case, if they wish. A criminal case must always start with a complaint to the Gardaí. The decision on whether to prosecute or not lies with the Gardaí, based upon the evidence. In cases of historic abuse, the Gardaí may decide not to prosecute because of the delay and loss of evidence or witnesses. A criminal case must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. If it is proven, then the perpetrator will be imprisoned.

The purpose of a civil case is to claim financial compensation from the perpetrator for the physical and psychological injury caused by the abuse. This claim is usually brought to the High Court and can be easier to prove because the burden of proof is less then in criminal cases. The abuse must be proven to the court on the balance of probabilities.

We understand how daunting and traumatic it can be to simply take that first step, and seek legal advice about sexual abuse. Taking a civil claim for historical sexual abuse can be a long and difficult journey through the court system. The court will seek details e.g. whether statements were previously made to the Gardai about the abuse. Medico Legal Reports in the form of Psychological Assessments and Report will be required.

How We Can Help

Our experienced staff can advise you in a compassionate and sensitive manner, at a pace that is comfortable for you. We recognise that for many people, their primary motive in making a claim is to hold the abuser accountable for their actions. In our experience, receiving financial compensation is often secondary to this for most claimants. However, in many cases, this is the only method of acknowledgement available.

Our Track Record on Sexual Abuse Cases

We were proud to play our part in making legal history with this case in the High Court:


The High Court has declared a new civil law in long-term abuse cases. Mr Justice Michael White has recognised that the long-term control and manipulation that an abuser exerts over a victim which facilitates abuse is in itself a civil offence.

If you would like to talk to us in confidence, please call us on 0404 67540 or email:

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.