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UK Court: Catholic Church Liable for Priest Wrongs

Tuesday Nov 8, 2011
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A British court has ruled that the Catholic Church can be held liable for wrongs committed by priests.

Tuesday’s ruling came in the case of a 47-year-old woman who says she was sexually assaulted by Father Wilfred Baldwin when she was living in a Catholic children’s home.

The woman, whose identity is protected by a court order, is pursuing a claim for damages against the church. Baldwin died in 2006.

Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust, the defendant in the case, was given permission to appeal.

The issue was whether a priest and a bishop had an employee-employer relationship.

Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel, who represented the woman, had argued that if no such relationship existed there would be "no circumstances where the Roman Catholic Church is liable for the actions of one of its priests whether deliberate or careless."

Monsignor Gordon Read had testified that he believed that "neither the bishop nor the priest would regard their relationship as having legal consequences."

Edward Faulks, a lawyer for the church, said the issue was a point of law and that the church was not seeking to shirk its responsibility in cases of sexual abuse.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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