High Court awards €370k to Christian Brother abuse victim

A 42-year-old man who was sexually abused by a Christian Brother over a five-year period starting when he was aged 8, has been awarded €370,000 by a High Court judge.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the sexual abuse was of the most extreme he had seen in his career.

“He suffered severe injury which has affected him throughout his life, ” the judge said.

The man, in his evidence, said the abuse took place in a Christian Brothers’ premises in Artane, Dublin, when he had volunteered to help out with gardening. It happened in a store room; a basement; and a room which overlooked rose beds, and happened three to five times a week in the early 1980s.

The man also told how the Brother, who has since died, put his hand inside his trousers and fondled him when he visited him in a convalescent home.

The action was against the Christian Brothers which it was claimed was responsible for the management and control of the Brother who died in 1986. It was claimed that the Congregation of Christian Brothers failed to implement any suitable or adequate code of ethics or rules of good practice for Christian Brothers in relation to contact with children, despite its historical knowledge of the sexual abuse perpetrated by members.

It was claimed the Christian Brothers were in breach of their duty of care as they were aware or ought to have been aware on December 8, 1960, that the Brother had been given a formal canonical warning on account of him “interfering incorrectly with boys”.

The defence did not contest the boy was sexually abused but denied negligence and claimed the case was statute barred.

The judge said he wanted to make it clear he accepted the man’s evidence and he was a truthful witness “who had been severely abused” by the Brother in a manner that has caused him “significant trauma”.

The judge said the defendant representing the Congregation of Christian Brothers was negligent in its failure “to take any steps whatsoever to supervise the Christian Brother or to prevent his access to a vulnerable child” in the “full knowledge that the Brother had been, in the past, guilty of child abuse of young boys”.

The judge held that even by the standards of the 1980s, the Christian Brothers ought to have put in place a system to watch and monitor the Brother to ensure he did not have such access to the boy or to others.

The judge said there was no evidence of any system being put in place in relation to the Brother or any treatment of him that differentiated him from a vast majority of non-abusive Brothers.

“It seems clear that having given the canonical warning in 1960 the defendants proceeded to treat the brother in precisely the same manner as every other member of their congregation,” Mr Justice Cross said.

While the defendant was not the party who assaulted the boy, the judge said the negligence found resulted in the boy being grievously assaulted over a prolonged period of time with significant adverse consequences to him. The balance of justice, Mr Justice Cross, said clearly lay in allowing this case to proceed.

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