Diocese can be held liable for abuse, court rules13 July 2012
The Diocese of Portsmouth today lost an appeal against a ruling that it can be held liable for the actions of abusive priests,
The ruling potentially opens dioceses up to a raft of claims for the actions of clergy, alive or dead.
The ruling follows a claim brought by a woman, known as JGE, who said she was abused by the late Fr Wilfrid Baldwin in a care home run by an order of nuns in Hampshire the 1970s.
The diocese denied the abuse took place but before the truth of JGE's claims could be tested, the diocese argued that they could not be held liable for the alleged actions of Fr Baldwin. They argued that a priest is not an employee of a bishop, rather that he is an "office holder".
In November last year the High Court ruled that the diocese could be held liable because the relationship between a bishop and a priest is "akin to employment".
The diocese appealed and in a judgement released today the Court of Appeal ruled the diocese is liable.
In a statement, the trustees of the diocese said the case raises questions of wider legal importance for the Church and the voluntary sector. They stressed that the case was not an attempt to avoid paying compensation to victims - they say they regularly pay damages to victims with valid claims - but rather about establishing an important legal point.
The law currently allows for claims against the Church where a bishop or religious superior has been negligent in the handling of an abusive priest, as opposed to being vicariously liable.
The Court of Appeal has denied the diocese the chance for a further appeal but the trustees said they are considering taking their case to the Supreme Court.
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