Church child abuse survivor obtains justice
We are happy to report that one of our clients has recently succeeded in a compensation claim for injuries suffered by a Church of England priest for childhood sexual abuse after being denied justice by the criminal system.
Background – the abuse
Our client was sexually abused by Reverend Terence King who was the vicar of St Mary The Virgin Church in Dewsbury Road, Woodkirk when he was between 11 and 17 years old although the impact of the abuse continues to impact on his daily life to date.
In addition to sexually abusing our client, King also harassed him with telephone calls and his threats throughout the period of abuse made our client feel unable to disclose the abuse. He was particularly worried that nobody would believe him as King was a priest and a respected member of the local community with good public standing.
Our client decided to report the abuse to the police in April 2002 however as he could no longer handle King’s persistent calls and he felt a need to finally address the acts of abuse and the substantial impact of the abuse on his daily life.
The police questioned King on a number of occasions but he committed suicide in October 2002 before the police were able to formally charge him. The police subsequently informed our client that a number of people had come forward with allegations that they had also been abused by King.
Our involvement – pursing a compensation claim
Although you can report a crime at any time to the police, you generally have to bring a civil compensation claim within 3 years of the assault or by your 21st birthday, whichever is later. Our client was in his 30’s and therefore substantially out of time to bring a claim. The courts can look behind the time limit however in exceptional circumstances.
We faced substantial hurdles to prove that a fair trial was still possible and that the church’s case had not been harmed due to the delay in bringing a civil compensation claim. We argued in the civil case that an inference should be made from King’s suicide and that, on the balance of probabilities, he had sexually assaulted our client and that our client’s claim should therefore be allowed to continue out of time. As King had never admitted to or been convicted of abusing our client, we knew however that we would have to prove that all of the acts of abuse had in fact taken place.
After considering the best way to proceed with our client’s case, we decided to pursue King’s employer, the church. It was clear to us that King had used his position as a priest to obtain access to our client before manipulating him and then sexually abusing him. As a result, we felt the church were responsible for the abuse as they had failed to supervise King even though he had daily interaction with young children.
Unfortunately, the church failed to provide a formal response to our client’s claim. We were not deterred by this however and decided to issue court proceedings against them. Bearing in mind the private nature of this claim and how our client wanted to ensure his identity was kept confidential, we applied to the court to anonymise his identity. Our application was successful and our client was therefore known by three non-descript letters (such as “ABC”) and his address was noted as our Firm’s address for the entirety of his claim to ensure nobody could ever identify him.
After providing the church with a copy of the court proceedings and after arranging a meeting with the church’s legal representatives, we were able to reach a successful six-figure settlement for our client and payment of his legal costs. This was a significant result for our client as he felt he had obtained a sense of closure that he had been denied by the criminal justice system.
Our client felt a duty to help other child abuse survivors and therefore decided to make statements to ITV and also the Yorkshire Evening Post. He did this in an effort to give strength to other childhood sexual abuse survivors so they too can finally break the silence of their abuse and he has decided to set up his own charity to support this aim and all survivors. Our client feels let down by the actions of the church in respect of this case and he awaits confirmation from the church that they are actively looking to remedy every case against King instead of being purely reactive to these cases. To date, the church has still not apologised for King’s assaults or for failing our client as a child. This continues to serve as an insult to our client and a continuing lack of remorse for these despicable acts of abuse.
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.