School abuse damages claim denied

A man in his 40s who claimed he suffered sexual and physical abuse while attending a Galway religious school in the 1970s has had his action for damages struck out by a High Court judge.

Mr Justice Michael Twomey said it had been almost 40 years since the alleged abuses had taken place at Holy Family School, at Renmore, Galway, and the alleged sexual abuser had since died.

The judge said there was a substantial risk of an unfair trial if the man’s claims were allowed to proceed.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, sued the Brothers of Charity and the State for damages both for alleged sexual and physical abuse. The religious order, which denied the claims in a full defence, had applied to the court for the proceedings to be dismissed on the grounds of delay.

Judge Twomey said in a reserved judgment that the man claimed he was between eight and 12 years old when he was sexually abused by a brother at the school.

He had also claimed that he was then physically abused when he reported the matter to another staff member, who had used his fists and a bamboo stick on him.

The judge said the staff member who allegedly had committed the physical abuse was still alive, but the essence of the plaintiff’s case was alleged “serious sexual abuse”.

The judge said the man had commenced legal proceedings 15 years ago and there had been a delay of almost 10 years in prosecuting the claim. The claimant was mildly mentally handicapped and was currently serving a sentence for assault.

He claimed his illiteracy, incarceration, psychological injuries, and addiction problems was responsible for the delay in proceeding with his case.

The judge said it was the man’s case that the brother who allegedly sexually assault him might still be alive but there was no evidence produced to the court to suggest there was another brother with the same name at the time the claimant had attended the school.

“Outside of these proceedings, the brother identified as the alleged perpetrator has not been associated with abuse of any sort, and no records exist in the Brothers of Charity files regarding any allegations or rumours of abuse,” the judge said.

Judge Twomey said that his decision had been influenced by judgments of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, in which they stated it was the “grossest imaginable prejudice” in a disputed sexual assault action for the case to proceed when the alleged perpetrator was deceased.


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