A 54-year-old man’s claim against the Redemptorist Order for damages over sex abuse he says he suffered more than 40 years ago as an altar boy has been dismissed by the High Court.
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said there would be “patent unfairness” if he allowed the case to proceed because of substantial prejudice to the Redemptorists as a result of the delay in bringing the case.
The man claims he suffered regular and continuous abuse at the hands of a since deceased Brother in Limerick between 1965 and 1970, when he was aged between seven and 11.
He claims that as a result, his personal development suffered, he attempted to take his own life at the age of 21, and developed a problem with alcohol. He says the abuse also damaged his relationships with women, including his marriage which broke up in 1999.
The Order sought to have his action struck out on delays in bringing the case. They argued the delays, from 1993, when he first made a complaint, to 2008, when he first went to a solicitor, to 2010, when he first went to the gardaí, were independently and cumulatively inexcusable.
The Redemptorists also rejected an argument that a memo made by a priest about his allegations in 1993 was proof of acceptance that the abuse had occurred.
The man’s lawyers argued the delay was excusable on the basis that as a result of the abuse, he was psychologically incapable of bringing proceedings until recently. It was also argued that due to the climate which prevailed in Ireland it was impossible for victims to come forward. Once he did complain, in 1993, it was the manner in which his complaint was handled by the Order which caused the further delay, it was argued.
Mr Justice Kearns said the interests of justice required that the case be dismissed. He accepted the arguments in relation to delay, but said, in considering whether delay was excusable, he had to take into account the balance of justice. The most important witness, the Brother, had died, so there was no one to directly challenge the allegations. There was also a lack of documentary evidence.
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