Catholic church using time limit to suppress child abuse cases, says lawyer
Jesuit-run school loses appeal against a court ruling giving a former pupil the right to pursue a £5m civil action
Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent
The Roman Catholic church was accused today of using the legal system to suppress evidence of clerical sex abuse after a Jesuit-run school lost an appeal against a court ruling giving a former pupil the right to pursue a £5m civil action.
The decision by the court of appeal was described by lawyers representing child abuse victims as "a blow at the church's culture of secrecy and denial" that would embolden other victims to come forward.
Governors at Preston Catholic college had argued that the claim by Patrick Raggett, 52, came outside the legal time limit.
Richard Scorer, an officer of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said: "The church refused to believe Mr Raggett's account of the abuse and tried to have his claim struck out on technical grounds to do with time limits. The church claims to be facing up to child abuse amongst priests. If that is the case, it needs to stop trying to use the legal system to suppress evidence of abuse – it needs to listen to victims, learn from them, compensate them fairly and cleanse itself so that this shocking abuse does not occur in future."
Raggett alleges that, while he was naked, Father Michael Spencer – who taught at the school and died in 2000 aged 76 – measured him "to chart his growth", filmed him performing exercises, photographed him and touched him inappropriately.
In earlier court appearances, Raggett said the ordeal had severely affected his personal relationships and his career as a City lawyer. He had suffered years of under-achievement at work, a failed marriage, binge-drinking and a breakdown. The £5m he is seeking includes past and future loss of earnings.
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Channel 4 News - U.K. August 27, 2010
Man wins appeal in child abuse case
A 52-year-old can go ahead with his court case against a Jesuit school where he claims he was abused. Channel 4 news hears that child abuse cases are often tried outside the legal time limit.
Patrick Raggett claimed he was subjected to years of sexual abuse by a teacher at Preston Catholic College in Lancashire, which has since closed down.
He alleged that he was measured "to chart his growth" while he was naked, filmed performing exercises, photographed and touched inappropriately by Father Michael Spencer, who died in 2000 aged 76.
The governors of the college, which closed in 1978, argued at a preliminary hearing at the High Court in London last year, that even if the abuse had occurred, the case should not proceed as it was brought outside the legal time limit. The law allows compensation claims to be brought up to three years after an incident happened, or after the claimant becomes 18 in cases involving a child.
However, Mrs Justice Swift ruled last year that the case could go ahead to full trial.
Speaking in May, 2009, Patrick Raggett said: "I had what is called a moment of awareness in April 2005. It was like a flash flood coming over me. It is hard to put it into words, but I would say that looking back at my life, the events were all still there, but I felt the light was shining on them from a different angle, and everything was illuminated.
"(The abuse) damaged me in many emotional ways. It gave me a terrible fear of intimacy and made me anxious around authority figures. It is hyper vigilance. You are too anxious in what should be normal situations," he added.
At the Court of Appeal in London today, Lords Justices Mummery, Thomas and Toulson announced that they had dismissed the appeal by the governors against Mrs Justice Swift's decision.
The British Jesuits released a statement after the ruling and said that they have noted the judgement: "They recognise the claimant’s right to proceed with his claim for damages, and deeply regret any abuse he suffered."
In June 2010, the Catholic church issued apologies for child sex abuse committed by members of the church. Pope Benedict begged forgiveness from God for "sins" committed by some priests.
Mr Raggett said outside court: "I am very pleased with the outcome and I remain resolute and confident that in the end justice will be achieved."
Richard Scorer, a solicitor from Pannone LLP in Manchester, who has represented claimants in child abuse cases against the Catholic church, told Channel 4 News: "Because of the nature of child abuse, the shame and secrecy which surrounds it, it is unusual for children to make claims before they are 21.
"It is normal when there is an allegation of child abuse for a judge to allow a case to continue when it is beyond the legal time limit."
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