First Test Cases Lost in Multi-million Pound Abuse Claim against Catholic Diocese

By Megan Cornwell
The Tablet
December 24, 2016

Over 200 people allegedly suffered abuse while they were students at St William's residential school

A landmark abuse claim that could see the Diocese of Middlesbrough paying out millions of pounds in compensation has had three of its first test cases dismissed by a judge.

Five former students of a Yorkshire school owned by the Diocese and run by the De La Salle Brothers until its closure in 1992, are bringing a civil case against the Church at Leeds High Court.

In 2012 judges ruled that both the Diocese and the religious order were jointly liable for compensation claims that run into the millions.

Over 200 people allegedly suffered abuse while they were students at St William's residential school in Market Weighton from 1970-1991. Earlier this year the school’s former principal and former chaplain were jailed for sex offences against children at the home, which educated boys with emotional and behavioural challenges.

On Wednesday Judge Mark Gosnell awarded one of the claimants ?14,000, but dismissed three of the four other claims. His ruling is expected on a further, fifth case, in January.

David Greenwood, the lawyer representing the claimants, said he would appeal the judge’s decision on the unsuccessful claims.

Outside court, he said: "I would say, obviously, on the central issue of whether it happened or not, there was compelling evidence given by all four, all five, of these claimants, and that should be the main issue that we are talking about.

"[I am] Disappointed that the judge did not see through all these arguments about minor inconsistencies but this is a skirmish, we will win the ultimate war. There are 245 cases still to go, so I'm very confident we will succeed.

"There was a lot of sexual abuse going on at St William's and these boys deserve justice."

A spokesperson for the Diocese said it would reserve judgement until the fifth test case is decided, but that it condemns "unreservedly any action which causes harm or distress to others”.

“We have in place robust safeguarding policies and procedures, overseen by a strong safeguarding team and in line with the comprehensive national safeguarding policies of the Catholic Church, to ensure all our parishioners, particularly children, young people and vulnerable adults, are as safe as possible”, it said.

The De La Salle Brothers said it would be inappropriate for them to make a comment at this time as the case was an "ongoing matter before the High Court".








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