Bishop has vicarious liability for actions of priest

The Irish Times

COURT OF APPEAL OF ENGLAND AND WALES JUDGMENT: JGE -v- Trustees of Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust

Neutral Citation Number EWCA Civ 938

Court of Appeal (Civil Division) of England and Wales

Judgment was delivered by Lord Justice Ward on July 12th, 2012; Lord Justice Davis concurring; Lord Justice Tomlinson dissenting.


Although a priest is not an “employee” of a bishop, the relationship between a priest and his bishop is sufficiently close to that of an employee to mean the Bishop of Portsmouth was vicariously liable for the actions of a priest of the diocese who abused a child.


The claimant in the case was born in 1963 and when she was six and a half spent two years in a children’s home run by nuns. Fr Wilfred Baldwin, the parish priest, regularly visited the children’s home where she alleged he abused her. She also claimed he raped her numerous times, including the day of her First Communion. She claimed the trustees of the diocese, who were the legal entity representing the Catholic church and the bishop, were vicariously liable, as the acts committed were connected with his carrying out his duties as a priest.

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