Ex-priest, Diocese of Huron sued for $4.1M in sex abuse lawsuit

London Free Press [London, Ontario, Canada]

October 23, 2022

By Jennifer Bieman

An ex-Anglican priest convicted of sexually abusing boys in his parishes and the London-region diocese that once employed him face a $4.1-million lawsuit from an abuse survivor.

David Norton, who was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison for abusing boys at two London-area congregations, and his former employer, the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Huron, are being sued by one of the victims from the 2018 trial where the ex-priest was convicted of indecent assault and sexual assault.

The plaintiff, identified only as J.R.C.K. in the statement of claim, is seeking $4.1 million in damages, including $250,000 for mental distress and $1 million in punitive damages, money awarded by the court to punish the defendants and deter similar conduct in the future.

“The relationship that Norton developed with the plaintiff, under the guise of a priest-parishioner relationship, allowed Norton an opportunity to be alone with the plaintiff and to exert total control over him, prey upon him and sexually abuse him,” the statement of claim alleges.

The statement of claim, filed Oct. 17 in London, includes allegations not yet tested in court.

The plaintiff was a member of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church at Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, the statement of claim says. The sexual abuse by Norton began in 1977, when the plaintiff was eight years old, and lasted for six years, the statement of claim alleges.

The sexual abuse occurred at Norton’s home on William Street in London, where the plaintiff stayed overnight with parental permission based solely on Norton’s “elevated status as a priest of the diocese,” the statement of claim contends.

The abuse also unfolded during church-sponsored youth trips to the Bahamas and when the plaintiff visited Norton in 1983 after the priest transferred to the Yukon, the statement of claim alleges.

“Norton used his position of authority and trust, as well as the dependency relationship that he had fostered with the plaintiff, to ensure that the plaintiff did not tell anyone about the behaviours they had engaged in,” the statement of claim alleges.

The statement of claim contends the Diocese of Huron is “vicariously responsible and liable for the actions of Norton” and did not protect the plaintiff from the former church leader.

“The diocese took no steps to stop the behaviour or to protect the plaintiff and, instead, took steps to attempt to cover up the behaviour,” the statement of claim alleges.

The Diocese of Huron confirmed it was served the statement of claim Friday afternoon.

“We will be discussing it with our legal counsel. The Diocese of Huron continues to hold in prayers all those who have been harmed by Mr. Norton’s actions which go against the very essence of our faith,” a diocese spokesperson said in an email.

In February 2018, Norton pleaded guilty to one count of sexual interference of a boy under the age of 14 between January 1991 and December 1995, during his tenure at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in London. He was sentenced to four years in prison in August 2018.

Later that year, Norton was convicted of three counts of indecent assault and one count of sexual assault involving four former altar boys at St. Andrew’s church between 1977 and 1983. Norton was sentenced to nine years in prison.

The plaintiff was one of the victims in the St. Andrew’s church case, the statement of claim contends.

The ex-priest, who was also an award-winning teacher at Western University affiliate King’s University College, is now facing similar charges in the Yukon.

Norton, 76, is charged with four counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual interference involving two boys between 1983 and 1985. He made his first appearance in Yukon’s Territorial Court last month.

His next scheduled court appearance in the Yukon court is Nov. 3.