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Berhampore Childrens Home


The Dominion Post
May 30 2005

Progress on sex abuse compo
by Anna Chalmers

Berhampore Children's Home sex abuse complainants are hopeful of a resolution after meeting Presbyterian Support.

The agency has changed tack in its handling of the former residents' allegations of sexual and physical abuse by justice of the peace Walter Lake, who headed the Wellington orphanage.

At least 14 former residents went to police last year with claims they were sexually abused during the 1950s and 60s by Lake, who was made an OBE for social services in 1986. He died last November, aged 84, just before police were to charge him with sex offences.

Allegations of abuse involving Lake have continued to surface, with three siblings telling The Dominion Post last week that they had suffered sexual and physical abuse for years while at the home.

Complainants and Presbyterian Support representatives met on Friday, after the agency agreed to discuss compensation. They issued a joint statement yesterday saying they were pleased with progress, but would make no further comment "in the interests of sustaining a constructive climate for discussions".

Till last week, the agency said it would not deal with complainants who went public, nor would it be liable for the claims.

Complainants are now understood to be hopeful of a resolution. The next few weeks will be spent establishing a process for handling the cases.

Presbyterian Support's about-face follows a report by the Presbyterian Church, a separate entity, expressing concern at public perception over complainants being treated with a "lack of respect and sensitivity".

Last week, Shona Brown, 49, said Lake had sexually assaulted her, usually in his car on the way to the church office. Her brothers, Michael, 44, and Ross, 46, said they were given horrendous beatings by Lake that often drew blood.

Presbyterian Support spokesman Trevor Roberts who was not involved in Friday's meeting was sidelined after the church's report. He has accused complainants of being motivated by money and the report said he had "failed badly" in response to allegations. The bad publicity would hurt the church, it said.