Church Faces £8m Sex Abuse Pay-Out

By Dani Webb
Northern Echo
October 27, 2010

A NORTH-EAST Roman Catholic diocese faces paying £8m compensation after the Court of Appeal ruled it was responsible for the biggest historic child abuse claim in the country.

The Middlesbrough Diocese was found accountable for the claims of up to 170 victims who were abused at St William's Community Home, in Market Weighton, near York, between 1958 and 1992.

But last night, a spokesman for the diocese said an appeal to the Supreme Court was under consideration.

Victims said that such a move would heap further misery on them. They are claiming damages after they say they endured years of physical and sexual abuse.

The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a ruling which said the De La Salle Brotherhood, which provided teachers at the home, had no legal responsibility, leaving accountability with the Catholic Child Welfare Society (CCWS) of the Middlesbrough Diocese.

One of the victims, Graham Baverstock, from Catterick, North Yorkshire, said the decision by the diocese to appeal again was "distasteful".

"All I ever wanted was a personal apology," he said. "I never went into this for any compensation.

"The Church has had many opportunities (to apologise) and hasn't.

"Our group will fight the Church wherever it wants to go. We will not relent in our quest for justice.

"It is not about the money it is about getting recognition for the suffering they are liable for."

Mr Baverstock was 14 when he spent more than a year in the home, where he maintains he was systematically abused.

The 52-year-old, who now lives in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, said he has attempted suicide and self-harmed as a result of what happened to him in 1973 and 1974.

James Carragher, who was headteacher at the home for 20 years, was jailed for 14 years in 2004 for a catalogue of sex crimes against pupils.

The home provided residential care and education for boys with emotional and behavioural problems, mainly from Yorkshire and the North-East.

Although St William's was owned by a series of trusts, lawyers said it was clear that the school functioned under the authority of the De La Salle Brotherhood, which exercised a remarkable degree of power over its management and highly disciplined ethos.

However, the Brotherhood did not own the school or employ staff there, and last year Judge Hawkesworth cleared it of any legal liability to pay compensation to alleged abuse victims.

The Middlesbrough Diocese challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal, claiming the Brotherhood made up "most of the worst abusers".

The appeal was yesterday dismissed after judges ruled the diocese had power to appoint or dismiss staff.

Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Lord Justice Hughes and Lord Justice Tomlinson, said the management board's "tolerance"

of the Brotherhood's influence over the school did not make it legally responsible.

Lawyers for the victims argued that the Brotherhood should be liable for abuse prior to 1973, when it ceased being an approved school, becoming an assisted community home.

The case is the biggest historical abuse claim against the Catholic Church in England.

A spokesman for the Middlesbrough Diocese said: "We are considering the judgement."

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