Court of Appeal rules in York care home case

Middlesbrough diocese must be held solely liable for the running of a York children’s home where 150 former residents are suing for sexual and physical abuse, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Hill Dickinson associate Kari Hansen instructed Brick Courts’ George Leggatt QC to lead an appeal against an earlier ruling that the Roman Catholic diocese could not hold the De La Salle Brotherhood (later known as the Institute of Brother of the Christian Schools) vicariously liable for the cases launched against it.

Middlesbrough diocese is currently defending a group litigation order launched on behalf of more than 150 claimants by Jordans partner David Greenwood. The case centres on the alleged systematic abuse of boys aged between 10 and 16 from 1960 to 1992.

Greenwood instructed 7 Bedford Row’s Rosalind Coe QC to act for the group claimants in the preliminary proceedings appeal against a decision handed down by His Honour Judge Hawkesworth QC in Leeds Crown Court last year.

Leggatt, who replaced 4 New Square’s Jeremy Stuart-Smith QC at the CoA (because he was otherwise engaged) argued that the De La Salle Brotherhood, a Catholic order of lay teachers, was equally responsible for the abuse and should be held jointly liable.

Responding, One Chancery Lane’s Edward Faulks QC suggested that because the De La Salle Brotherhood was not directly employed by the diocese there were no grounds for vicarious liability to be granted.

Lord Justice Hughes ruled that it was not a straightforward matter as suggested by Faulks. Upholding the first instance ruling, however, Hughes LJ stated that Leggatt had failed to convince him that the institute asserted “effective control” over the school.

He added: “Nor do I think that vicarious liability on the part of the institute can be derived on the basis that brother-teachers were carrying out its purposes and acting in the capacity of members of it.”