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£5m claim over 'sex abuse by priest'


 By Mark Hughes

24 March 2009 / The Independent

A former City lawyer who claims that the sexual abuse he suffered at a Catholic boys' school stopped him from fulfilling his potential and led him to have a breakdown nearly 30 years later has launched a £5m compensation claim. 

Patrick Raggett told the High Court that he was subjected to years of molestation by Father Michael Spencer at Preston Catholic College in Lancashire, but that he only realised he had been sexually abused three decades later during a Sunday lunch with friends.

Mr Raggett, 50, said he did not connect his underachievement with the alleged abuse until after his breakdown in April 2005. Yesterday he told the court: "My employment record is so far away from what it should have been. To know what one could have been and not be anything remotely approaching that is very painful."

The former lawyer, who left his job three years ago after his breakdown, says he had done exceptionally well at school before attending the college in 1969 where, he said, "the Jesuits ruled with a rod of iron". After leaving in 1976 he started to gamble, got into debt and underperformed at university. He had difficulty in forming relationships, drank excessively and took drugs.

He is suing the Society of Jesus and the governors of the school, which closed in 1978. He says the alleged abuse, which lasted for seven years, was carried out solely by Fr Spencer, who died in 2001 aged 76, and that other staff knew what was going on but did nothing. Both defendants deny liability. Mr Raggett has waived the right to anonymity granted to all alleged abuse victims in court, and says that his lack of comprehension about what he suffered was such that he even sought out Fr Spencer in later life to conduct his wedding ceremony.

He said: "Until the episode of April 2005 the only conscious memory I had was of Fr Spencer taking cine film of me naked and rubbing my groin. If asked I would have ... dismissed him as an eccentric. It was only once memories surfaced that I began to understand what had happened."

Mr Raggett must, before being granted a full trial, overcome the defence's insistence that his claim is "statute barred" because of the length of time that elapsed before he lodged his complaint in February 2007.

2009 Mar 24