Child Abuse in the Church
The idea that members of the clergy, considered by many to be some of societies most trusted people, would abuse children is shocking. Unfortunately, it does happen. Religious organisations and churches are places you would expect to be totally safe, but children are abused by the people they trust the most.
Survivors of abuse in the Church do not need to suffer in silence, even though some institutions have tried to cover up the abuse. Bolt Burdon Kemp has been able to help many survivors of such abuse gain compensation, treatment and closure by bringing their claims and holding religious organisations to account.
If you were abused as a child our team can help you bring a compensation claim against the religious organisation involved. It is also possible to claim compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
Reporting abuse to the police
If you were abused, or you think your child is being abused, firstly you must report it to the police. Child abuse, whether it is sexual, physical, or emotional, is a crime. The police have specially trained officers who can visit you at home or anywhere you feel most comfortable. Victim support can also offer support throughout this process.
For more information, read our guide on how to report or disclose child abuse.
Making a claim against religious organisations
We have brought claims against many religious organisations for abuse carried out by priests, vicars, nuns, ministers, vergers, church assistants and church musicians. And the organisations involved include the Catholic Church, Church of England, Church in Wales, Evangelical Churches, Protestant Churches and Jewish organisations.
Who to bring a claim against
You may wish to sue the individual who committed the abuse, but you may also be able to bring a claim against the religious institution itself on the basis that it was responsible for the person who committed the abuse.
Religious organisations are usually insured against compensation claims for child abuse and Bolt Burdon Kemp’s team of solicitors have the expertise to advise you on your options.
In order to bring a claim against the religious organisation responsible for abuse carried out by one of its members, we will establish that the organisation is vicariously liable for the abuser. We will gather all necessary evidence to prove how the abuser used their position within the organisation to commit their acts of abuse.
It is also possible to bring a claim against the religious organisation by proving that their negligence allowed the abuse to take place. If you told someone who was part of the church, such as a priest, and they failed to act on your information, then this is classed as negligence.
You can also bring a negligence claim against the religious organisation if it knew about the abuse or knew that the abuser was dangerous and failed to intervene.
Are there any time limitations?
You can bring a child abuse claim up until the age of 21. Sometimes victims of child abuse stay silent about what happened to them for years because of the difficulty of coming to terms with the abuse. But the courts understand that there may be a number of reasons why victims cannot come forward before this date and so can, in certain circumstances, extend the time limit to bring a claim.
Bolt Burdon Kemp is very experienced at bringing claims outside the time limit and persuading the court to extend it.
How Bolt Burdon Kemp can help you
If you are a victim of child abuse in the Church, as a leading firm in this field, we can help you receive justice. We are committed to representing survivors of child abuse, and never defend abusers or any parties associated with them. We will assess your child abuse compensation claim for free and we can then work with you to fund any further action you decide to take.
Our team of experienced solicitors understand how tough it can be to take action, but we can help you through the process step-by-step, so you can win compensation and move on from this difficult time in your life.
We have a proven track record of winning many child abuse claims against various religious organisations. You can have absolute trust that you will have a specialist and experienced legal team fighting on your behalf. We represent most of our clients on a no-win, no-fee basis and can offer Legal Aid.
- We acted for M in relation to sexual abuse he suffered between 1964 and 1972 at the hands of Father Cullen, his Parish Priest in Derby, when he was between eight and 15 years old. Although Cullen had not been convicted of abusing our client, we were still able to recover damages of £95,000 for M, which included compensation for the effect that the abuse had on his education and career
- We represented F who suffered childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Peter Stewart, a youth group leader at an Anglican Church in Canterbury. F was abused between the ages of 12 and 14 during the 1990s. As a result of the abuse, F developed mental health problems, including alcoholism. It was not until he was aged 25 that he felt able to disclose the abuse and report it to the police. Stewart was convicted four years later in 2011. We secured £50,000 compensation for F, which included compensation to help him get the treatment he needed
- When D was aged between 15 and 17 years, from 2008 to 2010, he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Father Michael Smith, his local parish priest in Kent. As a result of the abuse D under-performed at school and did not attend university as he had intended. D instructed us to act for him and we recovered £80,000 for D to help him get the treatment he needed and help him return to education