Christian Brothers fail to stop legal action over alleged sex abuse
Man claims he was sexually abused in class by an apparently drunk lay teacher
A defendant could not ‘sit back on its laurels’ confident, because an important person in the case was dead, this was sufficient to ensure a strike out of the matter, the judge said.
THE Christian Brothers have failed to stop a High Court action brought against them by a man who alleges, when he was a child, he was sexually abused in the classroom by an apparently drunk lay teacher.
The man, now aged in his 60s, claims the since deceased substitute teacher sexually abused him behind a free-standing blackboard between 1962 and 1965 while his classmates were told to write in their copybooks.
The teacher often appeared to have been drunk during classes, regularly smelled of alcohol and would be missing from the school, run by the Christian Brothers, for weeks at a time, the man claims.
The teacher sometimes requested “the good looking boys” to stay back after class and he believed the teacher also abused other boys in the classroom in the same manner, the man alleged.
He only brought proceedings against the Christian Brothers three years ago because he had repressed his recollection of the abuse until then, it was claimed.
A psychiatrist was satisfied severe abuse was carried out on him and had said the consequent mental repression made the overall delay in bringing proceedings “reasonable and typical” of people in such circumstances.
The Christian Brothers had argued, at this remove in time from the alleged abuse, a fair trial of the claim against the order was impossible and it should be struck out.
Dismissing that application, Mr Justice Max Barrett said, while the teacher was dead, it was possible some of the pupils alleged to have witnessed or experienced abuse might be called as witnesses.
On grounds of the mental repression indicated by the man’s psychiatrist, the judge rejected the claim of inordinate and inexcusable delay in bringing the action.
Given that finding on delay, it was not necessary to consider where the balance of justice lay, he said. However, a defendant could not “sit back on its laurels” confident, because an important person in the case is dead, this was sufficient to ensure a strike out of the matter.
While he did not have to rule where the balance of justice lay, he would have concluded it was preferable to allow the man proceed with the action on this ground.
There was a public interest in letting it proceed for those teachers in the school who never did anything wrong, he said. Their good names would be fully preserved while any wrong-doers, or those who did not discharge their responsibilities properly, are held to public account through litigation.