Legal Guides

Military Abuse

Victims of military abuse including sexual assault, sexual abuse or harassment are protected both by the criminal law and the civil law. Victims have the right to pursue legal action through the courts.

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Compensation for Military Abuse Claims

Experiencing abuse and assault in the military can result in significant levels of emotional, and in some cases physical harm. As there are many forms of military abuse, recognising your experience and deciding to speak up about it can be an extremely difficult but imperative step in your recovery.

Tracey Solicitors LLP have provided advice for many years to victims of abuse with confidentially and sensitively and can guide you through your options in the steps to redress.

It is common for victims of military abuse to not disclose their mistreatment until years after they sustained the abuse. This is often because the service personnel may not have been aware that they were being abused, or that the perpetrator may have been a person with greater authority than them due to the chain of command within the army. This structural hierarchy within the Defence Force can wrongly give the perpetrator (usually the instructor) the power, license and indemnity to sexually abuse cadets. The instructor may be seen to have unquestionable authority, so therefore the cadet is expected to oblige and follow orders to the letter. The perpetrator may have also groomed the male or female soldier to the extent that they felt incapable of speaking out. Pursuing a civil compensation claim allows a person to take back control from their abuser and take legal action. Making a service complaint can be an empowering decision as a person transition from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’.

Medical Expert

If you are looking to pursue a military abuse claim, it is normal in the preparation of a case to obtain detailed medical reports from the victims’ doctors and psychiatrists. Therefore, they can provide professional opinions on the effects of injuries the victim has suffered, and this will be used as evidence for your claim. The psychiatrist will state their opinion on whether the survivor can be diagnosed with a particular psychiatric illness.

Seeking Help

It is imperative for the victim to seek help from a qualified professional, such as a counsellor or a therapist, and it is more often than not very beneficial for the victim to speak to one of these professionals about their traumatic event.

Here are some common forms of therapy that a psychiatrist may suggest to help manage a victim’s illness:

  • Counselling: A counsellor offers professional assistance and guidance and helps to find ways for the victim to manage their issues.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: The therapist will try to manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
  • Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: This involves the therapist trying to target the specific issue or emotion that the victim is struggling to overcome and the destructive effects of early trauma.

What to do if you are a Victim of Abuse?

Report the incident to An Garda Siochana

It can be important that the abuse event has been reported to An Garda Siochana as this is a critical piece of evidence in any case, and any records or reports made by you will help to build the case. It will be important to gather as much evidence as possible to help build your case. Your solicitor will then be in a position to issue the defendant a ‘letter of claim’ which states the reasons for your claim and why they are responsible.

Confide in family or friends

Speaking with a close friend or family member who you can trust can be a good step to take in the recovery process. This person can often help and encourage you to seek the required help, especially if the victim feels they are not ready to disclose their traumatic event to a stranger.

Speak to your GP

If you are struggling with your mental health after this traumatic event, speaking with your GP can often help. Also, your GP will be in a position to refer you to other suitable help provided by the HSE.

At Tracey Solicitors LLP, we are aware and understand the difficulties you may have in discussing the abuse you have suffered, but it is critical that those who have suffered in this manner are able to come forward and report what has happened to them.


Moving forward with legal action can seem like a daunting process, so it is advisable that you speak with a solicitor when you feel the time is right. Your solicitor will guide you through every step of the journey and help you to move forward with your claim.

It is important to remember to keep copies of any expenses that you have incurred as a result of the event. It is also imperative to retain copies of medical reports or incident report forms where possible as you will need them when making a claim.

Our experienced solicitors will not press you for any of these details until you feel comfortable and ready to tell us about your case.

A compensation claim for psychiatric illness will vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and prognosis.

Victims have the right to pursue legal action through the courts. Many factors are taken into consideration before a compensation amount can be settled on.

Compensation is awarded by the Irish Courts under the following headings:

  • Injuries you have received
  • Pain/suffering and loss of quality of life/enjoyment of life
  • Past loss of earnings
  • Medical costs incurred
  • Cost of future medical care
  • Other costs

General Damages

General damages are non-financial damages you have experienced following the abuse you received in the military. If your abuse claim is successful, you will be awarded compensation which represents your pain, suffering and your ‘loss of amenity’, which considers the extent to which the abuse has affected your life, had you not been abused.

Special Damages

Special damages are out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of abuse in the military. This includes loss of earnings (if you can prove that your abuse has resulted in you not being able to work), medical bills, and added travel costs as a result of the incident (for example, travel to and from the counsellor). Learn more about special damages.

Court Proceedings

Few realise that whilst a large number of cases are listed on a daily basis, only a small percentage of cases will ever go to court for a full hearing. If both parties cannot agree on an appropriate level of compensation, then it will be necessary for your cases to be brought to court. If your case proceeds to court, your solicitor will do their utmost to reduce any anxiety you may have. You will be guided through the process to a conclusion.

Once in court, a timetable of the necessary steps to be taken will be outlined, including the court hearing date. Both parties will be given the opportunity to disclose all relevant documentation such as witness statements and expert medical reports. At trial, a barrister will represent you and the Judge will conclude the case outcome. Your solicitor will be on hand to assist if you have any further questions.

Support Organisations

In Ireland, there are a number of specialist support organisations and charities dedicated to providing a listening ear and support to anyone who may have experienced abuse at some stage of their life.

The following helplines are available if you have been affected by any of these issues and may be helpful:

Legal Time Limits

A person has two years less a day from the date that the event occurred to bring a claim forward. However, whilst events of this nature may have occurred many years ago this does not prevent the commencement of court proceedings. The courts acknowledge that some survivors may not have been in a position to disclose their abuse within this timeframe. Extension to the normal timeframes can be allowed for several reasons. Therefore, you may be entitled to pursue a military abuse claim even if it occurred many years ago.