Before I start this probably long posting I would like to apologise to Mr Richard Scorer and his abuse team at Panone/Slater and Gordon in Manchester. I have probably done them a disfavour with my past blog postings but I now realise they were working in a section of English law that has no mercy for the historical sexually abused young child and its modern day result, an old deceived, helpless adult. Scorer and his team were working within the realms of what was possible under historical sexual abuse in English law and what they knew from bitter experience with the Salford Diocese was not.
Before I continue there are a few legal terms I would like the reader to understand:-
CAUSATION – The ability to prove that the original sexual abuse had so disrupted the abused’s life that they did not reach their potential and therefore suffered great financial loss.
LIMITATION – The length of time after the abuse occurred when it would not be allowed for a case to continue. Under this Statute any occurrence before, I think, April 1954 would be time barred and that unfortunately happened to two of our chaps.
VICARIOUS LIABILITY – The occasion when an employer is liable for the acts of an employee providing it took place in the course of their employment.
Our case was under Vicarious Liability, the Salford Diocese was responsible for the actions of Monsignor Thomas Duggan, Fr Charles Mulholland and Fr Vincent Hamilton when they sexually abused four former pupils of St Bede’s College in Manchester between the years 1957 and 1963.
On the afternoon of the 8 March 2016 I landed at Knock Airport after a week away seeing lawyers in London, grandchildren in Manchester and friends and fellow cricketers from 50 years ago after our annual get-together in Blackpool. I was in a good frame of mind only to be met by my wife Helen who informed me that the case had collapsed, the lads were to get nothing, there was to be no day in court. Not a word was spoken on the 40 mile drive home. My mind was bombarded with thought and gloom. Six years of my life blown away. I was totally dejected.
Most regular readers of this blog know of my travails with the Salford Diocese, most know of their trickery when faced with historical abuse, most know of their unchristian, non-sacred, unholy attitude to the abused, but I will just précis my journey quickly for the new reader.
In, I think, January 2010 I wrote about the sexual abuse my friend Michael had suffered at the hands of Monsignor Thomas Duggan, Rector of St Bede’s College in Manchester, where we were both educated. This posting led to an avalanche of mail from Old Bedians round the world explaining their experiences at the hands of this wicked holy man of God.
I approached the Salford Diocese Safeguarding Commission who agreed that they had heard of this man’s transgressions but had no proof, his file was clean. It would be or else it would not have been there. They actually told me there had been a cleaning up of files by a previous bishop who knew full well what was coming down the tracks. I have a tape that I made at the meeting where the priest in charge said that he had been a priest of the Salford Diocese for 20 years and Duggan’s behaviour had been the talk amongst priests at golf clubs and retreats in all that time. My evidence actually goes back to post-war Manchester when the then Bishop Marshall was deflecting reports on Duggan’s behaviour.
Eventually after lots of twists and turns the then Bishop of Salford, Terence Brain, stood up farted and a vague apology dribbled down his varicosed legs and was reported in the Manchester Evening News on around the 13th/15th March 2011.
I was stuck with nowhere to go, with no understanding of how to take up the attack again. A newly formed American legal firm came to see me in Ireland wanting to take on the case. They brought in all the big guns and were going to do it the American way and not the half-hearted English way that gave abuse victims peanuts for performing at settlement but rarely in court.
I gathered up a list of about 30 Old Bedians who had been subjected to sexual abuse at school and interviews were held in London and Manchester in June 2011 bringing lads from England, Ireland, Australia, Switzerland, Spain, France and Scotland to give their stories.
Shortly after this, in fact on 20 July 2011, Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland, rose in the Dail to give a statement on the Cloyne Report into clerical sexual abuse of children in the Cloyne Diocese in Cork. An excerpt from this now famous speech says:-
“But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order. Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic… and in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children was downplayed or “managed” to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.
Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayed with St Benedict’s “ear of the heart” the vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.
This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.
The radicalism, humility and compassion which are the very essence of its foundation and purpose.
The behaviour being a case of Roma locuta est: causa finita est.
Except that in this instance nothing could be further from the truth.”
What has changed in the five years since that day, even with a new pope in tow? We have been subject to five years of side-stepping, delay and obfuscation. Everything but the abuse was examined, every point of law was scrutinised.
Our list was eventually whittled down to four men whose experiences stood out and were not time barred. Our QC at the time was confident of the success of these cases in court.
To take a case to court in matters of this nature where clients have not the wherewithal to fund the claim, insurance is the key. It is known as ATE insurance (After the event), whereby they insure all costs provided they are kept up to date with all Counsel opinion and forecasts and if the case seems loaded to the defence, they have the ability to pull the plug and discontinue the insurance.
Our solicitors as I said were going for causation and with advice considered limitation was not an issue in cases of vicarious liability on which ours was based. In these cases the judge has the power to disregard limitation, there has been previous case history on the subject.
With causation psychological reports on the victims are very important and carry a lot of weight. The Diocese with their experience in these matters appointed a chap with a massive history of defence in this subject. He was the main man in Ragget v Preston Catholic College/Diocese of Lancaster in 2012 when Ragget, an abused boy at the school, turned down an offer of £300,000 plus and went for millions under causation. The Diocesan psycho made mincemeat of Ragget’s claim and he ended up with £50,000 but had to pay the defence costs which would have amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
For one reason or another our causation claim failed putting massive pressure on limitation and our QC had to downgrade his opinion on success as less than 50% leaving the Insurance company no option but to back out of the deal.
This downgrading of opinion had been further harmed by the Diocese appointing the go-to man on limitation as their senior defence counsel.
Our solicitors, although committed, in fact would have continued without fee but would not fund the ongoing defence costs, which in the months before the case could run into millions and our Four Just Men had not the wherewithal either. On Counsel’s advice our solicitors approached the Diocese for settlement under Judicial College guidelines. The Diocese realised our solicitors dilemma and in polite legal language told them to fuck off, which they quickly did leaving our lads on suicide watch.
Throughout all the years it took to bring the case to court abuse had hardly a mention although the Diocese had tacitly denied it took place. They had a team of priests who swore in front of Almighty God, whoever he be, that Duggan or the other priests involved did not do such a thing. They would wouldn’t they because it is omerta that keeps the floating wreck of the Catholic Church afloat. As I look at the list of about 13 priests, a smile comes to my lips. I have stories about one or two of them and some are more than stories where they acted in a very unholy manner, their vows of celibacy indeed forgotten.
As I said abuse was not the issue, the Diocese spent all their force on limitation and they had their limitation expert as their main striker.
Panone/Slater and Gordon, although at the time had received some abuse from me, managed to get their boys a few quid, more important was that it was admitted that the abuse at Bede’s actually happened although not reported in the press due to settlement out of court.
Our lads got nothing and the Diocese is happy to think the abuse never happened. But it did, three lads we know were savagely raped by Duggan and one by another priest of the school whilst he was forced to commit sexual acts with another priest.
The lads feel terribly let down, angry that it came to this, sorry for having been exposed publicly in the media and despondent for having had to relive their historic trauma which over the years they had managed to cast to the back of their minds.
I feel terribly guilty for leading them down this path. It was me who encouraged them to come forward, to step up to the plate bravely and ask the Salford Diocese to accept the reparation they were responsible for. But these clerics cut and ran when the time was right.
The leaders of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church are no more than crooks and double dealers. They are without doubt the agents of the devil, without doubt evil incarnate. On no account are they men equal to our lads. The lawyers are now arguing over apologies for what that is worth. A historic terrible wrong has been endorsed by those who consider themselves Men of God today.
The only way out of this ungodly mess is for the Salford Diocese, accepting that they won on a technicality, to admit that the abuse happened and offer reparation in some form. In fact use St Benedict’s “ear of the heart”. This admittance is most important for them, so that they can tell the world that mistakes were made and that they are trying to set things to right. All honourable men would do this but of course these Men of God are not honourable men, there is not an ounce of decency coursing through their bodies. They preach goodness and love each Sunday and revert to evil and hate on Monday.
I repeat “This calculated withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded. The radicalism, humility and compassion which are the very essence of its formulation and purpose”.
MARK MY WORDS, THERE WILL BE MORE TO COME ON THIS MATTER.