independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Teacher awarded €700,000 for sex abuse probe failings

A FORMER secondary school teacher has been awarded €700,000 damages against the HSE over the manner in which it inquired into sexual abuse allegations against him.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill severy criticised the manner in which the investigation was conducted, saying the teacher was clearly targeted by the area health board and the HSE.

The judge said the actions of the HSE had the consequence of irreparably destroying the life of the teacher.

"Whilst the judgments of this court must go some considerable distance in redressing the wrong done to the applicant, the life he has lost to date cannot be restored and in the future will not be adequately repaired," the judge said.

In the absence of any adequate or proper vindication of his reputation out of the HSE inquiry, the judge said, the teacher – who cannot be named – will have to live with the consequences of the HSE's wrongdoing for the remainder of his life.

Awarding a total of €736,984, Mr Justice O'Neill said the teacher endured great mental anguish and suffering through the entire period of the inquiry. Although it is now closed, the judge said the teacher was understandably dissatisfied with the outcome because it does not vindicate him and he is left with the residual apprehension that it is always open to the HSE to recommence the investigation.

Outcry

The case arose out of allegations made by a former pupil. An American counsellor acting for the boy notified the area health board that he had made "a verbal outcry of sexual abuse" by the teacher at his former Irish school.

The boy, now aged 24, never made a formal statement to gardai and as a result, the DPP directed no prosecution could be taken.

The former teacher was suspended on administrative leave by his school in 2006 and he was reinstated in 2007, after he took legal proceedings, but he never returned to work.

Mr Justice O'Neill said a report of March 2006 fell far short of an honest attempt by the HSE to discharge its duty.

Mr Justice O'Neill said in effect the allegations were accepted as true from the outset and the local health board and the HSE at every step of the investigation "sheltered these allegations from appropriate scrutiny".

Irish Independent

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