Friday, October 29, 2010

School abuse

Dual Vicarious Liability And Co-Principal Liability.
XHello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.After swallowing that mouthful of a title which I will return to later in this blog, I want us all to turn our attention to a school, any old school will do, as long as it is Roman Catholic with an element of clerics on its staff and it caters for boys aged 10 to 16 years old. With a foundation of that nature in the middle to late 20th century it would be a pound to a pinch of shit that you would undoubtedly discover physical, mental and sexual abuse by one or more members of staff being meted out onto groomed pupils who had become receptors of the cleric’s evil, deranged behaviour.

So as I say, let’s take any school; let’s take St. William’s Community School in Market Weighton on the A1079, halfway between the towns of York and Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

From 1933 to 1973 it was classed as an Approved School and in 1973, to make it a lot more easy on the eye and a lot more cosier to the boys who were being lined up for entrance, it became a Community School. Unfortunately, although the name changed , the ethos did not. All the boys who went there were referred by local authorities for having emotional and behavioural problems and had, in the main, been pawns of the state system from being very young. They were like cannon fodder to the principal’s and some of the staff’s blatant sexual approaches, being buggered in study, classroom and chapel.

This school took boys from 10 to 16 years old and was supposed to give them a basic secondary education and bestowing technical skills on them before throwing them onto the streets to fend for themselves. The education they did receive was so barbaric that most of them within a few months of leaving would end up in a Young Offenders Institution or Borstal and as they grew older into prison.

Now it so happens that this school was owned and run by the Diocese of Middlesborough, one of the 23 districts that the Roman Catholic Church is split into in England and Wales. It covers the area of Teeside, North Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire and includes its principle towns of Middlesborough, York and Hull.

The diocese although employing the staff at the school gave over much of the running of the establishment to the teaching Order of De La Salle under the Principal, Brother James Carragher, a member of the local Children’s Welfare Board and an acknowledged expert in the education of children with social problems. For years there had been talk of wholesale abuse at the school, so much so that a police investigation in the early 1990s brought a criminal case against Carragher, where he eventually admitted 14 cases of abuse for which he received 7 years imprisonment in 1993, along with him was a priest at the school Fr. Anthony McCallan who received 3 years for similar crimes.

Another investigation undertaken in 2003 put Carragher back in court again, along with five ex-members of staff (the diocese had closed the school in 1993, demolished it, rebuilt and opened it appropriately as a home for people with mental problems.) Carragher this time was found guilty of assaulting 22 boys whom he had not admitted to in 1993 and he was sent to prison again in 2004 for 14 years. The case against the other five collapsed when the principal witness hung himself in a prison cell before the case could be heard. Half of the eventual witnesses were in prison during these investigations which says a lot for the attention they had received during their time at school.

During this second inquiry, the detective in charge described Carragher as the “most evil of men” in his efforts to ward off the investigation and save himself from further punishment. They concentrated on the years 1960-1992 when the school was closed down and in all covered 2000 boys who had lived there during that period. During that time also 500 staff had been employed in various roles for various lengths of time.

By 2002 it was obvious because of the mental and physical deterioration of a lot of the victims, the next step was a civil case against the Diocese and the De La Salle Order and David Greenwood of the Leeds solicitors, Jordan’s, was appointed to head the team of lawyers against the clerics. He soon had 142 former pupils giving evidence. He said at the time “abuse played a part in damaging these young people’s lives. The claimants I see are grown men. Often they are in tears giving statements, often they are reluctant to come forward in the first place because of feelings of shame and worries about how their families are going to react”.

This civil case took over six years to come to Court, Greenwood said “it was a long battle, all the organizations have used every argument possible to resist the case. Early this year in Sheffield Crown Court, the judge found for the ex-pupils and against the Diocese to the tune of £8 million which averages out at about £50,000 per man. Not much when you think of the highest individual settlement of £600,000, which was settled out of court and subject to a gagging order by the Church and given to a victim of Fr. Chris Clonan in Coventry. But the £8 million is the biggest case settlement so far against the Church in England and Wales.

However this was not the end for the wriggling Church as they decided that under Dual Vicarious Liability and Co-Principal Liability they would go to the Court of Appeal and fight the De La Salle Order as to who pays what of the £8 million. On Tuesday this week the Appeal Court found against the Diocese and it now stumbles on without any shred of dignity to the Supreme Court and the abused victims have to wait even longer for compensation and justice seen to be done. The diocese says it is not their fault but it is the lawyers and insurers who are pushing it along, but this brutal procrastination is doing the the Church untold damage. Who cares who pays, the Diocese or the De La Salle Brothers, it all comes out of Benedict’s back pocket. It is the Diocese who is paying the piper, they can get out now. Do not blame it on a man in a suit and tie, sat in an office hundreds of miles from the East Riding of Yorkshire, with not a care in the world about victims or Church.

Another initiative which started last week was that the Yorkshire police set up another inquiry, the third. Partly because a whole raft of new victims have come forward after reading of the publicity in the local papers, none of these ex-pupils have been involved in the £8 million case and partly because the police now realise that their investigations into the first two inquiries were woefully inadequate. I would say the Diocese is in for another almighty battering. The Diocese spokesman peevishly says that these new witnesses are just jumping on the band wagon

I have been following this case for some time because it is so very much like a case I am persuing on the other side of the Pennines and what I find very disturbing is the language used by all the parties is exactly the same. The Diocese, the solicitors, the victims, all say the same thing. One case is the repeat of the one before it, only the location changes. Even the sexual techniques are the same, the clerics must have learned how to do it in classes at the seminary. The Church could save a whole lot of time and money by giving a blanket guilty plea and accepting all resonsibility. But no, there is a man in a suit somewhere dragging this matter on to destruction. Come to think of it I never liked men in suits, cleric or lay man.

One last thing worries me, the reporting of these types of cases appears very rarely in the national press or on television. You often see reports in the local press but this subject is of national importance, it has wide public interest. I only found out about the Appeal Court Judgement hidden away in a 100 word article on page 7 of the Guardian of 27th October.


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