Wednesday 21 February 2018

Woman sues school chaplain over alleged sex abuse

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Stock picture

Tim Healy

A woman who claims she was sexually abused by a school chaplain over a three year period has launched a High Court action for damages.

The 28-year-old woman alleges the abuse began when she was a Transition Year student.

"He exploited her continually and regularly", Jack Fitzgerald SC, for the woman, said.

"His attitude to the claim and what she says happened is that none of it ever happened,"  counsel said.

The woman has sued the priest as well as the school in the South East and the local bishop.

They have denied the claims.

Mr Justice Robert Eagar was told the school claims it is not vicariously liable for any alleged actions of the priest.

She claims that between 2004 and 2007 she was repeatedly and wrongfully physically and sexually assaulted, falsely imprisoned and sexually abused.

She says she was subjected to sexualised behaviour by the Catholic chaplain and teacher in her secondary school.

She has alleged that on a school trip to Gambia, when she was 16 years of age, he invited her and another student to sleep in his bed with him.

The three of them spent the night together in his bed, she claims.

The priest she has further claimed was very attentive to her on the trip and after that sent her private text messages.

She has also claimed the priest continued to send private text messages to her and they became increasingly personal and sexual in nature.

She has alleged the priest bought a mobile phone for the specific purpose of texting her and that the priest allegedly advised her they would wait until she was seventeen before they could take the relationship further.

A few days after she turned 17, the priest brought the girl and some friends to the cinema. She claims when he took her home he kissed her.

It is claimed intimate physical contact would occur in his office in the school, after school, in the school chapel and he priest's house.

It is claimed the physical contact developed and progressed from kissing and cuddling to oral sex.

She has claimed the priest was held in high regard by everyone and she was unable to discuss the relationship with anyone.

She felt pressurised by the priest to have sexual intercourse with him.

It is alleged that by the time she was in Leaving Cert year she was having sexual contact with the priest about once a week.

The priest ended the relationship with the girl in February of sixth year and stopped talking to her.

Opening the case, her counsel said the woman first made her allegations in 2011 and the school board of management conducted an inquiry and found there had been no sexual contact between the two.

A later assessment found the priest to be a low risk.

The case continues.

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