State to seek legal costs from school sex abuse victim

The Supreme Court has today heard that the State is seeking its legal costs against the woman who was sexually assaulted as a child by her primary school principle.

The Supreme Court has today heard that the State is seeking its legal costs against the woman who was sexually assaulted as a child by her primary school principle.

The court was hearing arguments as to who should pay the costs of a test action taken against the State by Louise O'Keeffe (aged 43), of Thoam, Dunmanway, Co Cork, whether the Minister for Education and State was vicariously liable could be held vicariously liable for 20 sexual assaults by school principal Leo Hickey on Ms O'Keeffe at Dunderrow National School, Co Cork, in 1973.

Hickey was jailed for three years in 1998 after pleading guilty to 21 sample charges of indecent assaults on 21 girls.

Last December Ms O'Keeffe lost when the Supreme Court upheld a High Court ruling that the State was not liable for the abuse she suffered is facing a potential legal costs bill of more than €750,000.

Some 200 other cases were awaiting the outcome of the case.

Today Mr Fechin McDonagh SC for the State told the Supreme court that his client was seeking its costs. Counsel also told the court that the matter of enforcement would be treated with great sensitivity.

He said that the State, in correspondence with Ms O'Keeffe in 1998, had told her that her action was doomed from the outset, and that they had warned Ms O'Keeffe of this.

Mr Frank Callanan SC for Ms O'Keeffe argued that in her action she had established a point of law in the public interest and so she is entitled to costs of both the High Court and the Supreme Court hearings.

Today, the five-judge Supreme Court comprised of the Chief Justice Mr John Murray, Ms Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, Mr Justice Hugh Geoghegan and Mr Justice Nial Fennelly reserved their decision in relation to costs.

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