€370,000 for man abused by care worker
March 2, 2005
A man who sued for damages after being abused when he was a child by a care worker in an industrial school in the late 1960s was awarded €370,000 damages and costs at the High Court yesterday.
Raymond Noctor (45), of Leinster Crescent, Dublin Road, Carlow, had sued the State, the Minister for Education, St Joseph's Industrial School, Kilkenny, the South Eastern Health Board and the Minister for Health.
When the case was at hearing last month, liability was admitted for gross indecency and assault perpetrated against Mr Noctor, and the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, was asked to assess damages only.
In a reserved judgment yesterday, Mr Noctor was awarded €165,000 for pain and suffering to date; €150,000 for loss of earnings to date; €35,000 for pain and suffering in the future; €10,000 for future loss of earnings; and €10,000 for the cost of future counselling. He was also awarded costs of the proceedings.
Mr Noctor had given evidence of being sexually abused a number of times by care worker David Murray. He said he also received beatings from Murray, sometimes with a hurley and on other occasions with a brush or strap.
On many occasions Murray would have his Alsatian dog with him, and he would set the dog on Mr Noctor.
Mr Noctor said once late at night Murray took him to a vegetable garden and made him dig up a cabbage plant. Murray told him that if he ever told anyone about the abuse he would end up in the garden "and no one would ever find him", that Murray would kill him and leave him there.
When Mr Noctor was aged 14, Murray left the institution for a period during which there was another house master who regularly beat the boys.
When that person left after nine months, Murray returned, and the abuse began as bad as ever.
Mr Justice Finnegan said that, save for certain points, he accepted Mr Noctor's evidence as accurate.
The judge said Mr Noctor had given evidence of a meeting at which he said he made a complaint of sexual abuse. Mr Noctor had said the meeting was attended by the then bishop of Kilkenny, Dr Peter Birch, the then manager of St Joseph's, Sr Conception, and two Garda sergeants. The latter three denied any such meeting took place.
The judge said Dr Birch was deceased. Dr Birch had had an interest in St Joseph's, and was instrumental in having the children educated in outside schools. He was not satisfied that the bishop would have ignored a complaint of sexual abuse brought to his attention.
For like reasons, he was not satisfied on the balance of probability that an alleged meeting with Sr Conception and the two sergeants took place.
Mr Justice Finnegan said he was not satisfied that, having made complaints of incidents of physical abuse by Murray and then adding that there was more, Mr Noctor had acted sufficiently to alert Sr Conception to incidents of sexual abuse.
The judge said he had no difficulty in accepting the evidence of Sr Conception that had she been aware that the complaint against Murray was of sexual abuse, she would have acted on the complaint.
He said he was not satisfied as a matter of probability that Mr Noctor would require further medical treatment. However, he would require counselling, and an appropriate sum to provide for it was €10,000.
He described Mr Noctor's lifestyle to date as chaotic. However, he was satisfied that in recent years there had been many hopeful signs. The criminal proceedings taken against the perpetrator had benefited Mr Noctor in coming to terms with his sexual abuse.
Mr Justice Finnegan said he accepted that, while sexual abuse was not the sole cause or explanation of Mr Noctor's condition from the date of the abuse to now, that sexual abuse had been a major contributory factor to it.
He took into account, however, that Mr Noctor's life from the time he left care would to some extent have been adversely affected by other factors.
In particular, there was early emotional deprivation in the context of poor parental relationships, the death of his mother when the plaintiff was seven, the indications his father abused alcohol, and having been in care and the consequent denial of an appropriate home life.