The BBC have reported today that, despite funds of £7.7m being set aside in 2015 to compensate victims of sexual abuse at the St Williams Children’s Home in Market Weighton, the De La Salle Order which ran the school has delayed making payments, causing this long standing legal matter to drag on.
Jordans Solicitors began legal action in 2003 against the De La Salle Order and the Diocese of Middlesbrough and the litigation comprises of over 240 men who make allegations of physical and sexual abuse between the late 1960s and early 1990s when St Williams was closed.
The De La Salle Order have stated that “the strategy and management of the St Williams claims has been entirely in the control of the Diocese of Middlesbrough’s insurers and the insurer’s solicitors”. The Diocese of Middlesbrough said “no agreement has been reached” over compensation payments and that they “continue to be frustrated by the delays relating to the claims but accept that the legal process, which is out of our hands, needs to be followed”. Their insurers, Royal Sun Alliance declined to comment as the “sensitive litigation is ongoing”.
Christine Sands, Partner and Head of the Abuse Claims Department at Jordans, whose team, led by David Gibbs represent over half of the St Williams Claimants said “We acknowledge that the De La Salle Order appear to have earmarked a considerable sum in their accounts to contribute to the settlement of this claim some years ago, clearly accepting responsibility for members of their Order subjecting boys in their care to atrocious abuse over many years. It is important to remember that these men are convicted paedophiles, currently languishing in jail.”
James Carragher, former principal at St Williams was convicted of abusing boys at St Williams in 1993 and 2004 and sentenced to 7 years and 14 years respectively. In 2016, Carragher and former chaplain at St Williams, Anthony McCallen, were convicted of further offences against boys at Williams and sentenced to 9 years and 15 years respectively.
Mrs Sands added that “whilst the Supreme Court settled the legal issue of their joint responsibility in 2012, De La Salle and the Diocese continue to argue between themselves over monetary contributions to any settlement. As long as this continues, the vast majority of victims, growing numbers of whom have died or are in ill health, are not being compensated for the horrific abuse that they suffered.
“It is wrong for the De La Salle or the Diocese to say the litigation is “ out of their hands”. They are equal parties to the proceedings and at any point could agree to pay out to their victims unilaterally rather than subject them to the ordeal of a civil trial. This would be the moral and Christian choice. They choose instead to attempt to negotiate best terms with each other perpetuating this impasse, adding further suffering to those who have already endured too much.”
It is anticipated that further trials will be scheduled in 2018 and 2019 if no resolution is reached.