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Church Abuse Ruling ‘An Important Step Forward’

Appeal In Relation To Portsmouth Case Dismissed


By Rob Dixon

Legal experts who specialise in representing victims of child abuse have welcomed a court ruling which has clarified the Roman Catholic Church’s liability for abuse carried out by priests and other clerics whilst carrying out the work of the Church.

The Church has been refused permission to take an appeal to the Supreme Court in relation to a ruling made in 2011 in the case of a woman who alleges she was abused by a priest working for the Portsmouth Diocese.

Expected to be viewed as a test case in the future, the decision upheld the original High Court ruling which said the Church could be deemed responsible for clerical abuse of children.

The Church had argued that no formal employment relationship exists between its priests and their bishop.

Tracey Storey, a Partner and expert in child abuse claims at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the decision was a vital one for ensuring that the Church is held accountable for the actions of abusing priests.

She outlined: “This ruling is likely to have lasting consequences, as it has clarified once and for all how the courts view the legal relationships within church organisations, meaning that a huge number of people who have suffered physically and psychologically will be able to move forward in their quest for justice and be able to hold the Church to account.

“The law is now clear – and this decision has essentially clarified what most would regard as both fair and reasonable. Abusing priests use their office to abuse children and the Church is liable for those acts. It is for church organisations to ensure that safeguarding and protecting children is paramount.

“Having seen first-hand the terrible effect that clergy abuse has had on survivors of child abuse, hopefully now the Church will be sensible dealing with these cases and provide financial redress to victims who often have carried traumatic memories of the abuse with them throughout their adulthood, enabling them to get the psychological help they need to put the abuse behind them.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise related to Child Abuse Claims