Trainee Priest Claims He Was Victim of Sexual Abuse at Religious College in Mirfield
By Martin Shaw
Huddersfield Daily Examiner
June 14, 2018
|Trainee priest claims he was victim of sexual abuse at religious college in Mirfield|
An author who says his whole adult life has been overshadowed by sexual abuse he suffered at a Mirfield religious school is now battling for compensation.
Peter Murray, 60, had ambitions to become a priest when he went to St Peter Claver College in the 1970s, London’s High Court heard.
But he now says he was subjected to a campaign of abuse at the hands of a teacher – the now-deceased Michael Riddle – when he was aged between 14 and 16.
And he is suing the religious order that ran the school – the Sons of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – for the destruction wrought on his childhood and adult life.
The order “neither admits nor denies” that he suffered abuse at Mr Riddle’s hands and is strongly disputing the value of Mr Murray’s claim.
It is also trying to persuade Mr Justice Nicol that the claim has been brought to court too late and should be “struck out.”
Mary O’Rourke QC, for Liverpool-born Mr Murray, said the abuse he suffered between February 1973 and September 1974 had “dominated his adult life.”
Explaining the delay in bringing the case, she said Mr Murray “had only a gradual realisation of the effect of the abuse on him as an adult.”
He also had no inkling of his legal rights until historical abuse cases started to be highlighted in the media.
His mother had “a high admiration” for the order, and it was understandable that he had not complained until after she passed away in 2011.
|High Court in London|
Miss O’Rourke said evidence showed that Mr Murray had endured “grooming, progressing to serious and repeated instances of abuse.”
Letters from Mr Riddle to Mr Murray “show a wholly inappropriate level of affection and intimacy,” she told the judge.
And she claimed that the order had “clearly failed in its duty of care to a 14-year-old boy in its care and when acting in loco parentis.”
Mr Murray, who has written a book about his experiences, had suffered “intense confusion and distress” as a result of the abuse.
He had been left “feeling emotionally troubled and insecure, guilty and anxious”, the court heard.
He has trouble sleeping, has endured suicidal thoughts and “preoccupation with the abuse, including flashbacks.”
A psychiatrist had in 2015 diagnosed him as suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder.
After giving up thoughts of the priesthood, he forged a career as a nurse, but his working life had also been badly affected, said Miss O’Rourke.
Defence counsel, William Norris QC, said: “The order neither admits nor denies that Mr Murray was abused as alleged, or at all.”
It was for Mr Murray to prove his case and the barrister pinpointed alleged “inconsistencies” in his account of events.
His school records revealed an “unremarkable pattern” of a pupil doing well in some subjects and less well in others.
The barrister added: “The order’s case is that, even if the abuse by Mr Riddle happened exactly as Mr Murray describes, it had no long-term effect on his personality...or on his performance at school or upon his working life.
“The fact that he failed in his ambition to become a priest” had nothing to do with the alleged abuse, he claimed.
Mr Murray had in fact worked as “respected and effective nurse”, a profession which he described in his book as his ‘true calling.’
“Even if he lost a career as a priest because of abuse...it is clear that he must have earned more as a nurse,” added Mr Norris.
Although he accepted that the school owed Mr Murray a duty of care, the QC denied that it had been breached.
“There is no basis upon which to find that the school authorities knew at the time that Mr Riddle posed a risk to children and failed to take steps to eliminate or minimise such risk,” he told the judge.
The High Court hearing in London, expected to last several more days, continues.