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Relief For Abuse Victim As College Appeal Dismissed

Former Lawyer Subjected To Abuse At School



A former lawyer subjected to years of abuse at a Jesuit-run school has expressed relief today after the Court of Appeal threw out a bid by the Catholic Order to overturn a ruling that it was liable for the treatment he endured.

Patrick Raggett, 52, says the treatment he suffered at the hands of the late Father Michael Spencer at Preston Catholic College between 1969 and 1976 severely affected his personal relationships and his career as a City lawyer in later life.

An earlier hearing in the case ruled that Mr Raggett would be able to pursue a claim for damages against the College in Lancashire, despite only bringing the case decades after the abuse took place.

That ruling was subsequently challenged by lawyers for the Catholic Order but was today upheld by three Court of Appeal judges, a decision welcomed by the victim and his lawyers.

Mr Raggett said: “I am pleased with the outcome but this is only another stage on what is a long road. I remain resolute, confident that justice will be done in the end and that a fair resolution can be achieved.”

Amanda Stevens from law firm Irwin Mitchell’s specialist injury team is representing Mr Raggett and instructed Robert Seabrook QC and Justin Levinson of 1 Crown Office Row to present the case to the Court. Mrs Stevens said: “The decision handed down here today has provided much clarity and comfort for many victims of abuse, especially Mr Raggett who is looking forward to finally putting this ordeal behind him and moving on with his life.”

She explained that injury claims which are not commenced within strict time periods specified by statute, usually three years, cannot go ahead unless a court exercises its discretion by determining that it would be unjust for a claim not to proceed.

Such cases always involve careful use of judgment to balance the respective interests of the parties This ensures that the lapse of time is not prejudicial to a fair trial through, for example, loss of witnesses, failing memories of the incident or destruction of crucial documents.

In this case the trial judge exercised her discretion in Mr Raggett's favour but faced criticism by the College for the manner in which she did so. The essential question for the Court of Appeal was whether she had effectively “put the cart before the horse” by hearing the liability evidence ahead of making any finding on the preliminary limitation point. But Court rules do not state the manner or order in which a judge should conduct their limitation inquiry and the judgment was upheld.

Mrs Stevens continued: “We will now continue working to investigate the devastating impact that this abuse has had on Mr Raggett with a view to determining the overall loss he has endured throughout his life.

“We deal with many victims whose lives have been destroyed at the hands of their abusers and, though their needs are varied, in the vast majority of cases they suffer long-term effects and need professional support to help them rebuild their lives.

“For many, like Mr Raggett, it is years before they are able to come to terms with what they were subjected to and speak out. As a result many abuse victims approach us for help long after they have turned 18 and we hope that this case will provide some clarity for other victims of abuse, or other injury, affected by limitation.”