I do not know how many readers knew, but in our struggle with the Salford Diocese over these last four and a half years for them to recognise the sexual, mental and physical abuse that abounded at the College during the aegis of Monsignor Thomas Duggan (1950-1966), two court cases emerged. The big case which is the one I have been involved with since I innocently wrote a blog posting about what happened to a great friend of mine whilst at Bede’s and his sad decline and fall over many years is coming up later this year or early next year. There was another case which has gathered speed over the last 18 months. This involved originally three men from the 1955 intake at St Bede’s who were alerted after the Bishop of Salford, Terence Brain, set out his half-witted joke of an apology in March 2011. Instead of doing the clever thing and approaching me, because it was only myself who had all the information regarding the abuse which I had gathered over the previous two years, they decided to go to Pannone.
Pannone had gathered a small reputation over the years as a personal injury specialist, they had in fact represented some of the victims of William Green, the teacher of Religion at St Bede’s who had rampaged through the school in the 1970s and1980s causing all sorts of damage to a large number of pupils with his sexual attacks. It took nearly twenty years before his criminality came to light and he was eventually given a six year jail sentence in 2008.
He was given early release last year and incidentally he has recently been laicised by the Catholic Church. Pannone, under the guidance of Richard Scorer, their personal injury man, took up the cudgel in the civil courts for some of Green’s victims and showed his style by settling quickly and quietly. His brash, know it all approach would put many off. I met him in November 201o when I was invited to his office in Manchester. I had previously offered him a sample of my evidence. He said that it was not worth bringing to court and dismissed me fairly quickly. A few months later after the Bishop’s weedling apology he was hot on my tail, the ink had not dried on the MEN edition of the 15th March 2011 when one of his chums rang me up offering their services. I blurted out the first two words that came to mind. But I digress.
The three men went to Pannone about two years ago and Scorer quickly approached me once again in the guise of his run-around Molly Whittall, who asked if I would come on-board with them. I told her of my situation with Anderson Olivarius, our London lawyers, who had quickly realised the efficacy of the case when we met in April 2011 and had gone to great lengths in order to bring justice to the victims I had found. The upshot was and against my better judgement the two firms traded notes, AO’s position was that they only wanted the best for any victim whether their client or not. This I fear was not Pannone’s stance as they continually disregarded professional ethics by approaching our witnesses instead of channelling their enquiries through AO. Finally only a few months back as they were lining up the witnesses for their case Molly approached me again. I lost my temper and told Molly that she was transgressing Lawyers Professional Ethics No 101 and I politely used the same words that had come to mind back in March 2011.
The three men were now reduced to two, one had been dropped whatever the reason and this week AO’s witnesses who had been lined up by Pannone to give evidence in their case, which was listed for five days commencing 28th April in Manchester County Court, were told their verbal evidence was not needed. Pannone had clearly been able to beg a deal. But at what cost? This is curious: Panone to get critical witnesses for their case (which it did not want to wait on and bring with AO’s more substantial litigation), Pannone through Scorer’s right hand, Molly Whittall, had violated ethical rules by not contacting AO advocates, by going round AO’s back to make contact with AO’s clients. Pannone wanted AO’s clients to testify for their clients (in this case). This to me is a dishonest way to do business. Pannone clearly thinks that the professional rules that govern the legal profession don’t apply to them; they are prepared to go for other firm’s clients and make secret and illicit contact with them. This is bad form at best; unethical at worst. When AO’s clients contacted the AO firm about Pannone’s sneaky approach, AO did what was best for the clients and assisted Pannone in getting them the information from their clients that Pannone needed to help achieve a successful outcome in Pannone’s case. Pannone did not pay AO Advocates for their time; they gave it generously, to help the men who had been abused. AO’s whole approach is so different from Pannone’s self-centred, self-advancing style which is motivated by achieving a quick settlement, with legal fees assured, no matter the settlement figure. Am I glad that my opinion of Mr Scorer had been proven correct. What a good judge of bad character I am. But as they say “It takes one to know one”.
Knowing that Pannone policy is to bring cases to court quickly and settle cheaply, knowing that they would get paid come what may, I decided to contact AO to find out the settlement terms. Sadly, they explained, that they had lines out to Pannone to learn the basis for vacating the trial and whether the settlement was only about money or did it include (which they hoped) an agreed plan to try to stop this mis-behaviour in the future; were apologies given? Therapy offered? But as of last night, AO’s calls and e-mails had not been returned. They had been given no information to tell their witnesses who had prepared and were ready to assist at trial.
I have just learned that this morning, Molly Whittal returned their calls, but no information was forthcoming. Pannone is still in the secret’s business.
I understand that the case if heard would have a list of 16 defence witnesses, all priests, all acting like the three monkeys, swearing on the bible that sexual abuse of boys did not happen because they neither saw or heard anything of the sort. They would wouldn’t they. The same can be said of ex-Fr William Green who abused boys for 17 or 18 years with impunity whilst the other priests saw and heard nothing. Especially the priest who had his room opposite Green and had a tendency towards young girls and the comings and goings to Green’s room was stifling his own activities.
Anyway our case is the biggie and about to be listed in the High Court in London for hearing later this year or early next year and I believe with this one there will be no back alley settlement and respect will be given to all of the good men who came forward to testify, to assist, to share their stories, their hearts and souls. Perhaps justice is in sight. Thanks to Pannone, perhaps there was a hint of justice this week in Manchester. But now the warriors, the people’s law firm, are batting. Now the real legal battle begins.