Sex abuse victim to sue Christian Brothers


December 03, 2001
By Sean Keane
A man who was sexually abused by a Christian Brother is to sue the order for damages in a landmark civil case. The High Court case, scheduled for tomorrow, may open the floodgates to similar cases from other victims who were sexually abused by members of the religious community.

As many as 1,500 such cases are currently before the State Solicitor.

The man, in his 30s and from Waterford, is suing the Southern Province of the Order after being abused by Brother Jack Kelly.

The disgraced cleric is serving an eight-year prison sentence following his conviction for sexually abusing 11 boys.

It is the first time that a civil case against the order has reached the court. Solicitor for the Waterford man, Michael Lanigan, confirmed the case for damages is being taken against Br Kelly and his superior, Br Anthony Mark McDonnell.

Last night, co-ordinator of Survivors of Child Abuse, John Kelly, said the High Court ruling would have huge implications for victims of sexual abuse.

"This is the case we have been waiting for. Under the Statute of Limitations, the Director of Public Prosecutions has dropped 90% of all cases and a number of obstacles have prevented other cases coming to the courts.

"If this case is successful, we will be advising all victims to take their cases to the High Court and to avoid the Residential Institutions Redress Board," said Mr Kelly.

The board is being set up by the Department of Education to assess the level of compensation for victims of abuse. Legislation is currently going through the Dáil and the board will be up and running early next year.

However, victim support groups have a number of concerns, including:

* Compensation payments will be much less than that of High Court.

* No set compensation figure from the Church.

* Victims who take settlements waive right to take any further court cases.

* Confusion over costs.

"The Government is modelling its compensation boards on those set up in Canada and Australia. But in both cases paltry amounts were paid out to victims.

"In the High Court each case will be assessed on an individual basis and everything is up for grabs. In Australia and Canada less than £2,000 was paid out to people who were abused. The minimum payment in the High Court is £30,000," said Mr Kelly, who represents more than 600 victims in Britain and Ireland.

Meanwhile, lawyers trying to trace the disappearance of millions belonging to the Christian Brothers in Canada have unravelled a trail leading to Ireland.

Abuse victims are seeking massive compensation from the order in Canada. The Christian Brothers has claimed total assets of $4m. But many assets did not appear on the religious order's documents.

The liquidator of the Christian Brothers now wants to access the books of a Dublin company, Richmond Newstreet, as part of its investigations.


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