(1) F (2) S v TH (2016)

The claimants claimed damages as the victims of historic sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by a priest when they were boys.

The claimant brothers alleged that the abuse had occurred between 1979 and 1983 and between 1983 and 1986 respectively. The defendant was sued as the personal representative of the bishop who had been responsible for the diocese in which the priest had worked at the relevant time. It was common ground that the claims had been brought at least 20 years out of time so that the court had to determine whether to extend the three-year primary limitation period.

HELD: It was not possible to say that the abuse had not occurred. However, the evidence was not sufficiently reliable or accurate to enable the court to make positive findings that abuse had occurred in the case of either claimant. The evidence was insufficient to discharge the burden of proof to the necessary standard. Even if the evidence had been sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof, such were the difficulties caused by the considerable delay in taking action that it would not have been appropriate to exercise discretion to extend time to permit the claim to continue. In any event, there would have been particular difficulties as to making any reward for the financial losses claimed, as well as great difficulty in assessing general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. Such were the problems of assessment and of disentangling a tortious cause from one that involved no breach of duty that a fair trial of those issues would no longer be possible. Nearer the time it might have been. It followed that the claims had to be dismissed (see paras 78, 87-88 of judgment).

Judgment for defendant

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