Jesuit governors appeal £5m abuse award
The governors of a Jesuit school began an appeal on Tuesday against a court ruling which awarded a victim of clerical sex abuse £5m in compensation.
The damages action is the largest compensation award of its kind in Britain.
The governors of the Jesuit-run school are attempting to overturn the decision of Mrs Justice Swift, who said there was “entirely compelling” evidence that Patrick Raggett had been the victim of a “sustained course of sexual abuse and assaults” by Fr Michael Spencer at Preston Catholic College, Lancashire, between 1969 and 1976.
The case was allowed to proceed although the statute of limitations had passed.
Patrick Raggett, 52, claims he was subjected to years of “insidious” sexual abuse by Fr Michael Spencer, a teacher at Preston Catholic College in Lancashire. Fr Spencer died in 2000 aged 76.
Mr Raggett has argued that he did not connect the experiences with years of under-achievement at work, a failed marriage and binge-drinking until he had therapy after an April 2005 breakdown.
But the governors of the college, which closed in 1978, deny liability and argued at a preliminary hearing at London’s High Court last year that, even if the abuse happened, the case could not proceed as it was brought outside the legal time limit.
Mrs Justice Swift ruled that the case could go to a full trial, accepting Mr Raggett’s evidence that Fr Spencer subjected him to sexual assaults and that he was sometimes abused several times a week over a period of about four years until he was in his fifth year at the college.
So far as the question of whether the case was time-barred, she found that Mr Raggett must have had the requisite knowledge, within the meaning of the Limitation Act, from the time the acts of abuse were committed of the nature and extent of them and the effects upon him.
She was satisfied that he established it would be equitable for the action to proceed and possible to have a fair trial of causation.
Steven Ford QC, for the governors, told Lord Justice Mummery, Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Toulson in the Court of Appeal that the judge was in error in deciding the question of whether the assaults happened before she examined the prejudice to the governors, and in the way she approached the issue of the prejudice on the question of causation.
Mr Raggett’s counsel, Robert Seabrook QC, argued that the appeal court should not intervene as the judge had weighed all matters and reached a conclusion that was “correct and fair”.
The judges reserved their ruling to a later unspecified date. (Source: PA)