Just this morning, the Supreme Court has given judgment in the historic child abuse case of Catholic Child Welfare Society v Various Claimants (1) The Institute of Christian Brothers (2) [2012] UKSC 56. A fuller report will appear on the PiBlawg, no doubt in due course.

Lord Phillips, giving the sole judgement of the Court held that there are two stages in establishing vicarious liability:

  1. first whether the relationship between the abuser and the defendant was capable of giving rise to vicarious liability; and
  2. secondly examination of the connection that linked the relationship between them and the abuser’s wrongful conduct.

Applying this test, the Institute, an unincorporated association, was vicariously liable for the acts of abuse committed by its members who worked in a school under a contract of employment with a third party.

This case may be of inadvertent pertinence in the coming years in light of what the Press suggest it likely to be a veritable avalanche of civil claims brought by victims of child abuse, brought in the wake of the allegations made against Jimmy Savile and others working at the BBC and other institutions. The nature of the employment is likely to be of paramount importance in such cases, especially in those where the alleged abuser is deceased and/or impecunious.

Lord Faulks QC and Alistair Hammerton of 1 Chancery Lane appeared for the Second Respondents.