Owen Bowcott, Legal affairs correspondent
The Guardian, Thursday 28 February 2013
The Catholic church could facing spiralling compensation costs after an attempt to avoid liability for abuses committed by priests and nuns was dismissed by the UK supreme court.
The decision will have implications for a wide range of organisations by expanding the principle of “vicarious liability” to other churches, local authorities, charities that rely on volunteers, as well as Scouts and Guides. Lawyers said it could even affect claims involving Jimmy Savile’s abusive past.
The refusal by the UK’s highest court even to hear the church’s challenge that clerics are not “akin to employees” marks the end of a potential legal escape route from responsibility for compensation.
Lawyers for the trustees of Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust had appealed against a decision in the court of appeal that they had a duty to compensate a young girl for alleged beatings inflicted by a nun and sexual abuse perpetrated by a priest as long ago as the 1970s – if the facts of the abuse were established.
But in a statement issued this week, the supreme court said it had refused permission to appeal “because the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance”. It believes the issue has now been settled.
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