Church appeals decision in Waterlooville woman’s case

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THE Catholic church is hoping to overturn a ruling in the case of a Waterlooville woman who claims she was abused by a priest as a child.

The 47-year-old woman who can only be identified as JGE says she was sexually abused by Father William Baldwin, while living at The Firs Children’s Home, in Waterlooville, for two years in the 1970s.

She is seeking compensation from the order of nuns who ran the home – The English Province of Our Lady of Charity – and the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust.

The church had previously asked the High Court to consider whether they could be held responsible for the actions of their priests and ministers.

But following Mr Justice Alistair MacDuff’s ruling in November last year that the Catholic church could be held ‘vicariously liable’ for the alleged behaviour of Baldwin, the church has taken the case to the Court of Appeal.

JGE’s lawyer Tracey Emmott, of Emmott Snell, said: ‘While it may be an interesting point of law because there is no formal employment relationship between priests and their bishop, this challenge to the High Court ruling is likely to be deeply offensive to victims.

‘Why should the church be treated any differently from normal employers who must face legal responsibility for wrongful actions of their employees? The church has a history of child abuse allegations against priests, which will not go away.

‘It publicly expresses a commitment to take sexual abuse seriously and to eradicate it. Yet it chooses to challenge a high-profile High Court ruling that finds the church is legally responsible for it.’

The hearing is expected to last two days.