Former City lawyer Patrick Raggett wins £54,000 damages after suffering years of abuse at Jesuit-run school
Friday 09 November 2012
A former City lawyer who claims he made a mess of his life because he was sexually abused at a Jesuit-run school today won £54,923 damages.
Patrick Raggett had asked for an award of up to £5 million on the basis that the abuse caused recognised psychiatric disorders and behaviour which led to the loss of his legal career.
Mrs Justice Swift at London's High Court said he was not entitled to such a large award and awarded him £40,000 for pain and suffering, plus interest and expenses, including the cost of therapy.
She said: "I am well aware that the conclusions I have reached in my judgment will be disappointing to the claimant and that its contents may cause him some distress.
"This is particularly unfortunate and regrettable since there is no doubt that he was the victim of an insidious form of abuse involving a grave breach of trust and that he has suffered significantly as a result. As a result, he is deserving of sympathy.
"Over recent years, he has come to believe that all the adverse events that have occurred in his life are attributable to the abuse and that belief, which I do not doubt is sincerely held, has clearly brought him a great deal of comfort."
Mr Raggett, of Chiswick, west London, was not in court for the ruling.
He was abused between the ages of 11 and 15 by Father Michael Spencer, a teacher at Preston Catholic College in Lancashire, who died in 2000 aged 76.
The abuse was not penetrative and resulted in no physical injury but Mr Raggett, who has waived anonymity, says it left him feeling "violation, dread, isolation, shame and humiliation".
Now 54, and married with a child, he says he did not connect his experiences at school with years of under-achievement at work, a failed marriage and binge drinking until he had therapy after an April 2005 breakdown.
The governors of the college, which closed in 1978, denied liability and said the case was brought too late but Mrs Justice Swift ruled against them in 2009.
Between 1970 and 1974, Spencer, who was Mr Raggett's form teacher and coach of the football team he captained, observed him naked, filmed him, photographed him and touched him inappropriately.
Mr Raggett said this had significant long-term psychological effects on him but lawyers for the governors questioned his credibility and said his problems were caused by environmental and hereditary factors.
Mrs Justice Swift was asked to conduct a review of Mr Raggett's life history, from his early childhood and schooling to student days at Liverpool University where he read English, a short accountancy traineeship and law school in Guildford.
She said that members of his family referred to him appearing taciturn, moody and sometimes distressed during his adolescent years.
"I am satisfied that this behaviour was attributable to the abuse which he was suffering. As a result of the abuse, the claimant had difficulties relating to some of his schoolmates and became somewhat withdrawn from his family.
"I have concluded that the abuse also had an adverse effect on the claimant's attitude to his school work and therefore on his examination results.
"I have found that the effects of the sexual abuse persisted for a period of about eight years from the start of the abuse until the beginning of the claimant's third year at university, by which time he was living in a house with friends and taking a full part in the usual student social and sporting activities.
"In 2005, his realisation of the extent of the abuse resulted in an awakening of memories of certain incidents and, more particularly, of the emotions associated with them.
"Following that episode, the claimant suffered symptoms of distress and low mood, together with repeated ruminations about the abuse. I have concluded that those symptoms persisted until some time after the trial of limitation and liability.
"By the end of 2009, the claimant was showing some improvement and I am glad to say that this has been maintained ever since. He has now remarried and his new family, together with the career as a therapist and counsellor on which he has embarked, have brought him considerable satisfaction and fulfilment."
The judge said that, in concluding that Mr Raggett had certain personality traits which had caused difficulties in his personal, social and employment life, she did not intend to suggest he was to blame for that.
"We all have different personalities and some are more difficult to manage than others. Most of us do not have our actions and behaviour subjected to the type of detailed analysis that I have had to undertake in this case.
"I doubt that it would be a pleasant experience for anyone. However, since the claimant has brought this claim, it has been my duty to conduct that analysis and to set out my conclusions in this judgment."
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