High Court orders Christian Brothers to pay €370,000 to victim of child abuse

Judge finds congregation took no steps ‘whatsoever’ to supervise abusive brother

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said witness had been ‘severly abused’ in a manner that caused ‘significant trauma’.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said witness had been ‘severly abused’ in a manner that caused ‘significant trauma’.

 

In what is believed to be the highest court settlement in a child abuse case in Ireland, a High Court judge has ordered the Christian Brothers congregation to pay €370,000 damages following sexual abuse of the “most extreme” kind inflicted on a young boy over a five-year period in the 1980s by a since deceased brother.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross found negligent failure by the congregation in taking no steps “whatsoever” to supervise the brother or prevent him getting access to a vulnerable child, despite having “full knowledge” the brother had previously abused other young boys.

Even by the standards of the 1980s, the congregation ought to have put in place a system to watch and monitor the brother to ensure he did not have access to this boy or any others, the judge said. There was no evidence of any system put in place or any treatment of this brother that differentiated him from a vast majority of non-abusive brothers, he said.

Warning
Despite the brother having been given a canonical warning in 1960 relating to abuse, it seemed clear the congregation proceeded to treat him in precisely the same manner as every other member of their congregation, the judge said.

This negligence resulted in the boy being grievously assaulted over a prolonged period of time with significant adverse consequences to him, he said.

The abuse suffered was among the most extreme he had seen in his legal career and had caused severe injury affecting the man throughout his life, the judge added.

In evidence to the court, the man, now 42, said the abuse began when he was eight in a Christian Brothers premises in Artane, Dublin, after he had volunteered to help out with gardening. The abuse happened in a store room, a basement and a room overlooking rose beds between three to five times a week in the early 1980s, he said. The brother had also fondled him when he visited him in a convalescent home before his death in 1986.

In his proceedings, he alleged the congregation was responsible for the management and control of the brother.

Historical knowledge
The congregation, he alleged, failed to implement any or any suitable or adequate code of ethics or rules of good practice for Christian Brothers in relation to contact with children despite their historical knowledge of the sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the congregation. He alleged the congregation had breached a duty of care on grounds they were aware or ought to have been aware on December 8th, 1960 that the brother had been given a formal canonical warning by his superiors on account of him “interfering incorrectly with boys”.

The congregation did not dispute that the man had been sexually abused but it denied negligence and liability and also pleaded the claim was brought outside the legal time limits.

In his judgment, the judge said he wanted to make clear he accepted the man’s evidence and that he was a truthful witness who had been “severely abused” in a manner that caused him “significant trauma”.