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Catholic Institute found liable for school abuse

The Supreme Court has held that a Catholic teaching institute is vicariously liable for alleged acts of sexual and physical abuse of children by its members between 1952 and 1992 at St Williams, a residential institution at Market Weighton for boys in need of care.

The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools did not own the School, but Brothers from the Institute taught at the School alongside lay teachers and a brother always acted as headmaster of the School.

In 1990 the headmaster of the School was expelled from the Institute after it was discovered he was guilty of systematic sexual abuse of boys in his care.

Claims were brought by 170 men in respect of abuse to which they allege they were subjected at the school. The claims were against two groups of defendants. The first group consists of the managers of the school from 1973, who inherited the statutory liabilities of the former managers and entered into contracts of employment with the brother teachers (‘the Middlesbrough Defendants’). The second group consisted of members of the Institute (‘the Institute Defendants’).

The High Court held that the Institute Defendants were not vicariously liable for the acts of abuse committed by brothers at the School. The Court of Appeal upheld that ruling. The Middlesbrough Defendants appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now unanimously upheld the appeal, finding it fair, just and reasonable for the Institute Defendants to share with the Middlesbrough Defendants vicarious liability for sexual abuse committed by the brothers.

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