Ex-teacher awarded €700,000 against HSE
A former secondary school teacher has been awarded more than €700,000 damages against the Health Service Executive after the High Court found it destroyed his life by “grossly reckless” conduct of an inquiry into allegations he had sexually abused a male pupil.
Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said the teacher, who had denied the allegation and cannot be identified by court order, was clearly targeted by the then area health board and HSE and was a victim “of targeted malice” and of a pre-judged inquiry.
He was satisfied the malfeasance in public office of the HSE had the consequence of destroying irreparably the life which the teacher enjoyed in all its aspects, professional, social and domestic.
While the court’s judgment must go some considerable distance in redressing the wrong done to the teacher, the life he has lost to date cannot be restored and in the future will not be adequately repaired, the judge said.
In the absence of any adequate or proper vindication of his reputation out of the HSE inquiry, the judge said the teacher will have to live with the consequences of the HSE’s wrongdoing for the remainder of his life.
Awarding total damages of €736,984, Mr Justice O’Neill said the teacher had endured extraordinarily high levels of stress and great mental anguish and suffering through the entire period of the inquiry.
Although the inquiry is now closed, the judge said the teacher is understandably dissatisfied with the outcome because it does not vindicate him and he is left with the residual apprehension it is always open to the HSE to recommence the investigation.
The case arose from an allegation made by a former pupil. An American counsellor acting for the boy had notified the area health board he had made “a verbal outcry of sexual abuse” by the teacher at his former Irish school.
The court heard a social worker notified the teacher of the allegation, which he denied. He also sought exact details of the allegations but was not given them by the health board involved.
The boy, now 24, never made a formal statement to gardaí and as a result, the DPP directed no prosecution could be taken.
The former teacher was suspended on administrative leave by his school in 2006 but reinstated in 2007 after he took legal proceedings. He never returned to work and later sought court orders restraining the HSE continuing an investigation into him which it had reactivated after interviewing the boy in July 2007.
The High Court ruled in 2010 the investigation could continue.
In his judgment Mr Justice O’Neill said a report of March 2006 which led to the teacher being removed from his post and placed on administrative leave fell far short of an honest attempt by the HSE to discharge its duty.
The documentary evidence in the case “demonstrates forcibly that from the outset of this investigation its outcome was always prejudged or determined”, he said.
It also showed the investigation was “conducted in a manner calculated to ensure that the predetermined concluding would not be deflected or disturbed by any meaningful input by the applicant”.
Mr Justice O’Neill said the allegations were effectively accepted as true from the outset and said the health board and health service had at every step of the investigation “sheltered these allegations from appropriate scrutiny, thereby ensuring the applicant did not escape his fate as a child sex abuser, as they saw it”.