Wednesday 25 April 2018

European Court to hear abuse case against State

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

AN abuse victim has won a legal victory after the European Court of Human Rights agreed to hear her case against the Irish State.

Louise O'Keeffe (46) confirmed to the Irish Independent last night that the Strasbourg-based court has agreed to hear her complaint despite vehement objections from the State.

If Ms O'Keeffe wins her action, it could open the floodgates to a raft of appeals from abuse victims denied compensation from the State because the incidents occurred in church-run or independent schools.

Ms O'Keeffe was abused as an eight-year-old in a Dunderrow primary school in Cork in 1973 by then principal, Leo Hickey.

She sued the State, claiming the Department of Education was liable as it paid the teacher's wages, supervised the curriculum and inspected the classrooms.

However, the State insisted that it was not liable given that there was an independent board of management in place.

The department denied vicarious liability.

Ms O'Keeffe took a civil action against Leo Hickey -- now retired -- and was awarded a monthly payment of around €400. He was jailed for three years in 1998 after being convicted of indecently assaulting a number of girls in the 1970s.

Ms O'Keeffe lost her Supreme Court challenge in 2008 -- and, in 2009, she expressed fears she would lose her home given that legal costs were estimated at over €750,000.

The Supreme Court later ruled that the mother of two should not be held liable for the costs as there were "exceptional reasons" for her taking the case. Ms O'Keeffe and her Cork solicitor, Ernest Cantillon, then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

Over 200 other abuse victims either dropped or postponed their actions in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment.

Irish Independent

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