Today in the English High Court, Mr Justice McDuff handed down a landmark decision against the Roman Catholic Church involving sexual abuse. In what most Bajans will consider to be a bizarre and totally inappropriate defense, counsel Crispin Hollis, acting for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, tried to invoke employment law, pleading that Fr Wilfred Baldwin, an ordained Roman Catholic priest, was self-employed that therefore no liability attached to the Church for the sexual abuse of a minor. The Daily Mail report above makes for sickening reading.
The judge, however, disagreed.
If this decision is upheld on appeal, it will open the flood gates to claims against Churches and is most likely to be upheld in all common law jurisdictions, including Barbados. This surely is one of those decisions where the courts and common sense are in accord and a triumph for common sense and under-aged victims of sexual abuse whose abusers seek to hide behind religion.
The judge said, “Whether or not the relationship may be regarded as “akin to employment”, the principal features of the relationship dictate that the defendants should be held responsible for the actions which they initiated by the appointment and all that went with it……..”
The victim was 7 years old at the time of the commencement of the sexual abuse, which went on for some years. The actual judgment of McDuff J ought to be available online here shortly, for the legal eagles in the BU family.
This is an issue that the BU family may want to weigh in on.