Friday 15 December 2017

Man who was sexually abused by Marist Brother receives €315k in the High Court

THE High Court has awarded €315,000 damages to a man who was "systematically" sexually abused for three years by a former Marist Brother while he was a pupil at a school in Sligo.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill said he "entirely rejected" the denials by former Brother Christopher Cosgrove, of Claremorris, Co Mayo, of having sexually abused the man, now aged in his 50s, at St John's National School between 1969 and 1972.

The judge also ruled the Marist Order was vicariously liable for the acts of Brother Cosgrove and that the then school manager, the late Canon Collins had, in his capacity as manager,had a ten per cent liability.

But, the judge said, because Canon Collins had not been sued and cannot now be sued due to legal time limits, he must reduce the €350,000 total damages to reflect that ten per liability, cutting the award to €315,000.

The case involved "recovered memory" of sexual abuse and the judge accepted the man had given a careful, reflective and truthful account of his rediscovery of memory of the abuse between 1999 and 2010.

That conclusion was relatively easily arrived at given the "unusual, if not extraordinary", amount of evidence from four men, former classmates of the man, corroborating the entire content of the man's recovered memories.

One of those men had described reaching "a point of unbearable revulsion" after seeing the plaintiff held on Brother Cosgrove's kneee for most of a day with the boy "weeping inconsolably" while his genitalia were fondled through the open front of his trousers, the judge noted.

There could be no doubt the content of his recovered memory was "accurate" and "comprehensive" but the fact the memories of the abuse were so totally suppressed for some 30 years "said much about its impact" on him.

On the basis of all the evidence, the judge found the man, as a result of the abuse, suffered severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder characterised initially by "extreme avoidance". He had no settled career and no settled home life and the abuse had "greatly impaired"

his life.

Earlier, the judge noted the man had no memory of the abuse when initally contacted by gardai in 1999 about investigations into issues raised by other pupils of Brother Cosgrove's.

He later spontaneously recalled, without any therapuetic or other process, memories which he had suppressed or blocked out for decades and that recall helped him address other difficulties, the judge found.

The man had alleged the abuse occurred in the classroom and when the Brother was teaching him to play drums for the school band.

He told the court Brother Cosgrove fondled and digitally abused him both inside and outside his clothing and he felt powerless to stop him.

Sometimes the Brother would put his trousers belt around both of them, with the effect he was restrained close to the Brother, he said.

The judge found his evidence, and that of the other four men, was "truthful and reliable" and he described Brother Cosgrove's claim that their evidence was part of a conspiracy to get damages as "utterly lacking in credibility".

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