Religious Order Loses Bid to Halt Sex Abuse Case

The Irish Times

December 19, 2008

A RELIGIOUS order has lost a High Court bid to halt an action against it by two men over sexual abuse more than 30 years ago by one of the order’s teachers.

The teacher, a member of the Franciscan order, was jailed in 1998 after pleading guilty to physical and sexual assault on the two complainants when they were aged 11 and 12 and pupils at the national school where he taught.

The men, now aged 46 and 47, subsequently brought civil proceedings – which will be heard by a judge and jury – against the teacher and the Franciscan order (the Regular Third Order of St Francis of Assisi).

In their case against the order, they claim it is vicariously liable for the actions of the teacher.

Proceedings were also taken against the principal of the school, the parish priest as school manager, and the Department of Education.The men obtained judgment in default against the teacher in May 2006 and the case against him is due before the High Court at a later stage for assessment of damages only.

In a preliminary application, the Franciscans asked the High Court to strike out the men’s case against them because of alleged inordinate and inexcusable delay in making the complaints, which were made in July 2000, and/or a further delay in prosecuting those proceedings.

The Franciscans argued their right to a fair hearing was prejudiced on grounds of delay and the non-availability of witnesses.

They also argued it would be a travesty of justice to allow the hearing proceed because the Franciscans had no involvement in operating the school.

The two men argued the delay between the dates of the assaults and the bringing of the damages claim was excusable.

The men argued that medical reports showed both men were traumatised.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said while there was inordinate delay prior to instituting the proceedings, it was excusable.

The judge also said he was satisfied both sides had contributed to the delay.


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