10 November 2011

High Court Rules that Priests ARE employees

Back in July I put up a post about Portsmouth Diocese and its appalling attempt to avoid its liability for the sexual abuse performed by one of its priests. Had it been successful it would have effectively been impossible for anyone to claim damages for sexual abuse performed by any priest in England and Wales. Essentially Portsmouth Diocese had tried to worm its way out of liability for abuse by claiming that the relationship between a priest and diocese is not the same as that of an employer and an employee.

However there is good news! The high court has ruled against Portsmouth Diocese.

Mr Justice Macduff gave a decision in favour of a woman, known as JGE, who claims she was sexually assaulted by a Portsmouth priest at a children's home in Hampshire.

The judge said although there had been no formal contract between the church and the priest, the late Father Baldwin, there were "crucial features" that should be recognised.

He said: "He [Baldwin] was provided with the premises, the pulpit and the clerical robes. He was directed into the community with that full authority and was given free rein to act as a representative of the church. He had been trained and ordained for the purpose. He had immense power handed to him by the defendants [the trustees of the Roman Catholic diocesan trust]. It was they who appointed him to the position of trust, which (if the allegations be proved) he so abused."

It is the first time a court has ruled that the relationship between a Catholic priest and his bishop is akin to an employment relationship. It sets a precedent for similar cases, by providing further guidance for such trials in the future, while also putting the church in uncharted territory. The church has been granted extended leave to appeal the decision.

Lord Faulks QC, on behalf of the defendants, said the church was not seeking to evade responsibility for paedophile priests. "My clients take sexual abuse extremely seriously and are very concerned to eradicate and investigate it," he said. "This case has been brought as a point of law that has never been decided." (Oh yes I believe that totally. Of course they were trying to slither out of their responsibilities!)

JGE told the Guardian she was pleased with the judgment but angry about the church getting leave to appeal. She said: "I'm fuming. I've had no support from the church whatsoever. Nobody has contacted me. They are ignoring victims. It feels like being on a rack, turning the screws tighter and tighter, over hot coals."

A victory for the the church would have meant it could avoid paying any compensation to victims of clerical sexual abuse.

I feel sorry for the many priests who do a great job working for their communities. Their bishops (and the hierarchy) seemed not to give a shit about them, spending far more time protecting rapists and their reputations. Portsmouth Diocese's action  was nothing but a cynical attempt to avoid paying up for the crimes of one of its priests. If this bankrupts the Diocese then I will shed not a single tear.


Claude said...

The "good ones" are putting themselves on the same level than the evil ones by trying to deny their responsibility and association. I never cease to be amazed, and enraged, by the lack of moral outrage of the top people, starting with the Pope, and all the Catholic hierarchy.

Syncopated Eyeball said...

I remember your last post about this. This is a very good result . . . so far.
I'll be very interested in hearing what happens next so please do keep us updated.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

"My clients take sexual abuse extremely seriously..."

Does it mean quality-wise?

jams o donnell said...

I have encountered many priests in my life Claude. Some were utter fuckwits, some pious fools but quite a lot were good and dedicated men who strived to make a difference in their communities.

I would like to mention one priest, Father Bob Hammill, as a shining example of what a parish priest should be. A fine man whose work is smeared by the actions of the abusers and the hierarchy.

It is a god result Syncy. They church can't hide from its liabilities now.

Haha Snoopy. I wonder!