Child abuse survivor succeeds in case against Church of Wales
I have recently been successful in a case against the Church of Wales for childhood abuse suffered by a client at the hands of one of their priests.
Background – the abuse
My client was sexually abused by Stephen Brooks, who was the priest at St Paul’s Church, Sketty, Swansea. The abuse took place when my client was aged between about 11 and 14 years old.
Brooks manipulated his position of trust as a priest and used his good public standing to obtain the trust of my client’s parents and the local community. This allowed him to abuse my client for a substantial period of time without raising any concerns and it also helped him to effectively silence my client as he felt nobody would believe him compared to Brooks who was a trusted parish priest.
Brooks sexually assaulted a number of children and one of these children reported their abuse to the police when my client was approximately 14 years old. My client was consequently contacted by the police and he also reported the abuse that he had suffered at the hands of Brooks. Brooks admitted sexually assaulting my client and a number of other children at Swansea Crown Court in the 1990’s and he was sentenced to a total of 4 years imprisonment.
Our involvement – pursing a compensation claim
My client never felt comfortable disclosing the entirety of his abuse to the police. As a result Brooks was never tried or convicted of all the assaults that he inflicted on my client. This meant I would have to prove these assaults took place in my client’s civil case.
I was concerned about pursuing Brooks directly for compensation as there was a real risk he would not have enough money or assets to pay compensation to my client. As a result, I decided to pursue Brooks’ employer, being the church. It was clear to me that Brooks had used his position as a priest to obtain access to my client before manipulating him and then sexually abusing him. I felt the church were therefore equally responsible for the abuse as they had failed to supervise Brooks even though they knew he had frequent interaction with young children as a direct result of his employment.
The church finally admitted they were responsible for Brooks’ actions. I therefore provided them with our medical evidence and my assessment of my client’s losses and expenses as a result of the abuse. My client had not only suffered substantial psychiatric injuries but the abuse had also had impacted his personal relationships, his studies and consequently his career. Our psychiatric expert recommended psychiatric therapy to deal with the impact of the abuse and to particularly target his chronic low self-confidence.
I am glad to report that after a period of negotiations I was able to obtain a significant sum of compensation for my client from the church.
The conclusion of this case was a significant result for my client as he felt the church had finally listened not only to what Brooks had done to him but also the impact this had taken and continued to take on his daily life. I was informed by my client that this acknowledgment has helped him obtain a sense of closure from his childhood abuse and I am currently awaiting a written apology from the church to help my client with his recovery.
Dino Nocivelli is a partner in the Abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Dino free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4887 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Abuse team will contact you. Find out more about the Abuse Team.