Switalskis have recently settled a claim against The Boys’ Brigade following abuse by a Brigade leader in the early 1990s. Here, specialist Child Abuse Solicitor Kieran Chatterton briefly outlines the details of the case and outcome for our client.
Our client was a vulnerable child living with his mother and siblings, and came to be in contact with JE via friends in the area. He started to visit JE with his friends and would help out with delivering papers. JE was kind to our client and would do things like help fix his bike and give him sweets and cigarettes. At some point later our client and his mother moved in next door to JE. From here contact began to increase and our client came to see the man as a father figure, spending lots of time round at JE’s house along with his friends.
Around the time he moved next door, JE invited our client to The Boys’ Brigade, where he was a leader. JE was also active in the Methodist Church connected to The Boys’ Brigade. He paid our client’s fee on the night as his mother was not able to afford it. While at The Boys’ Brigade JE started to touch our client; he would play fight with him and put his hands down our client’s shorts. He then took our client and other boys back to his house after The Boys’ Brigade meeting and abused them further and more seriously.
Our client went along to The Boys’ Brigade about six times, but the abuse continued for around two years until he moved further away. Our client was then visited by the police in his late thirties after one of the other boys had mentioned our client was involved in the abuse. He cooperated with the police and gave a statement and in the end gave evidence against JE. JE denied all the charges but was convicted and given a lengthy prison sentence. Our client then decided to bring a civil claim, in part because he felt that the Boys’ Brigade should be held responsible for the actions of JE.
We sent a letter of claim to The Boys’ Brigade setting out the allegations, details of the conviction and the effect that the abuse had on the Claimant. The Defendant made no admissions despite the conviction and also said that The Boys’ Brigade were not liable for the actions of JE. The organisation highlighted that his role in The Boys’ Brigade was coincidental and not related to the abuse. In effect they were suggesting that JE was abusing our client because they happened to live next door to each other, and not in connection with The Boys’ Brigade.
Our client’s case was that he looked up to JE; that he was only abused once he went to The Boys’ Brigade; and that at the beginning the abuse took place on The Boys’ Brigade premises and then immediately after the meetings. In addition the other victims were not next door neighbours and there is no reason why JE could not have abused our client before he attended at the meetings. It is likely JE asked our client along to The Boys’ Brigade because he thought it was important in gaining his trust and it was no coincidence that the abuse only started once our client had gone along to the meetings.
Once all of the evidence had been gathered our client tried to settle the case before court proceedings, but the Defendant insisted they were not liable. Court proceedings were issued and only after the pre-trial review did the Defendant finally make settlement proposals and the case was settled.
Our client, in the end, was very happy with the outcome. He did not want to attend court again about the same abuse and he was satisfied that The Boys’ Brigade had taken some responsibility for what he had been put through. Reflecting on the case I am disappointed that the Defendant took the approach that they did. I accept that no Defendant will want to pay for a claim they are not in law responsible for. However, on the facts outlined above this was a case that was always likely to win on vicarious liability. I suspect that the real hope of the Defendant’s was to cross examine our client in the hope that the order of events might change or that he would prove an unreliable witness. That is always a risky strategy, as well as being an expensive one, because such a plan involves putting the case in front of the Court. In the end, the case settled nearly two years later than it could have considering that the facts had not changed since the beginning. In my view, the Defendant misjudged the risks in this case, delaying settlement and increasing costs on all sides very significantly.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.