Saturday, February 12, 2011

Diocese delays payment
Diocese facing £8m bill in child abuse case wins right to appeal
Published on Sat Feb 12 06:00:00 GMT 2011

THE Supreme Court has granted a Roman Catholic diocese at the centre of a huge child abuse scandal the right to appeal against a ruling that left it facing an £8m compensation and costs bill.

The Middlesbrough Diocese hopes to overturn last October’s Court of Appeal judgement which found the diocese solely liable for the management of the St William’s children’s home in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire.

Around 150 alleged victims of sexual and physical abuse at the home are claiming compensation – the largest historic abuse case the Catholic church has faced in the UK.

The latest development in the long-running legal saga means claimants will now have to wait until later this year, possibly the autumn, before a final decision on who is liable is made.

The Court of Appeal had previously upheld an earlier High Court ruling that the diocese and not the De La Salle Brotherhood was responsible for the management of the home.

Although De La Salle, a Catholic lay order, provided staff at the home, the diocese was found liable largely through its power to appoint staff.

The diocese will be hoping the Supreme Court will find De La Salle shares some of the liability which could substantially reduce a potentially huge bill for damages and costs.

A further hearing will increase costs which are already in excess of £1m for the diocese alone. De La Salle’s costs are at a similar level and the claimants’ costs are about £2.5m. Compensation could amount to as much as £4m. Total costs for the three parties for a Supreme Court hearing could amount to another £500,000.

Claimants’ solicitor David Greenwood reiterated his belief that the Catholic church had dragged its feet over responsibility for abuse at the home but added: “While I am naturally anxious to achieve justice for the claimants as quickly as possible, an extra appeal doesn’t put me off because ultimately either the diocese or De La Salle were responsible for abuse at St William’s.”

A Middlesbrough Diocese spokesman said: “The diocese looks forward to the adjudication of the Supreme Court and is pleased the appeal has been granted.”

De La Salle declined to comment beyond confirming it would continue to argue it was not liable.

The compensation claims revolve around alleged systematic abuse of boys aged between 10 and 16 who were placed at the home between 1960 to 1992 after being referred from local authorities largely in Yorkshire and the North East.

Claims were first launched seven years ago, when the home’s former headmaster, Brother James Carragher, was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being convicted of abusing boys at the home between 1968 and 1992, when the home closed.

He had already been given a seven-year term in 1993 for other offences of serious sexual abuse at the home.

Carragher is the only member of staff to have been convicted of sexual or physical abuse at St William’s. Eight other staff were either cleared at court or had charges against them dropped.

The legal action includes abuse claims involving Carragher but also many claims against other staff. About 2,000 children and 500 staff were at St William’s over the 30-year period. Carragher and other St William’s staff were De La Salle members but the claims also include allegations against workers who were not part of the brotherhood.

Humberside Police began a fresh criminal inquiry into abuse allegations at the home last year after the force received new claims against former staff.

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