THE legal firm representing a woman who claims she was sexually abused by a Portsmouth Catholic priest has said her court case could decide whether victims of abuse by Jimmy Savile can make claims against hospitals and the BBC.
The Catholic Church has applied to appeal to the Supreme Court against a decision by the Court of Appeal that the church is responsible for child abuse committed by one of its clergy. The appeal concerns a civil action brought by a woman known as Miss JGE.
She claims she was sexually abused by Father Wilfred Baldwin, a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, who died in 2006.
In November 2011 the High Court found that the church is responsible for the sexual misbehaviour of its clergy.
The church had claimed that, on a technicality of employment law, it could not be held legally responsible because there is no formal employment relationship with priests.
Tracey Emmott, of Emmott Snell, who represents the victim, said: ‘If the church’s appeal to the Supreme Court were successful, that would effectively mean no more civil cases against the church could ever be brought.
‘Depending on the outcome, claims by Savile’s victims may be brought against the BBC, NHS and the Department of Health for his work as a volunteer at Leeds, Broadmoor, Stoke Mandeville and so on.
‘To make a successful claim, victims would have to show that Savile’s relationship with the NHS was like that of an employee.’
The Rev Stephen Morgan, secretary of the trustees to the diocese of Portsmouth, said: ‘We aren’t the employers of priests. But what they have said is that they believe if the relationship is akin to employment we ought to be held reliable for the actions of the individual.
‘What we are seeking from the courts is clarity to establish what the law is in that area. It’s important to point out that there has been no finding of facts in this case.’