City lawyer, Patrick Raggett, is suing the Jesuit run school he attended for £5 million in damages alleging sexual abuse in the 1970s by the now deceased Father Spencer, a priest at the school before it closed in 1978. If successful, the claim will be by far the largest court award for damages in England for sexual abuse (the current record being £600,000). Mr Raggett's first hurdle will be to overcome the statutory limitation period for bringing his claim which will depend on the exercise of the High Court's discretion. Critical in exercising the discretion will be Mr Raggett's assertion that he had, up until 2005, suppressed any memories of the abuse he suffered (to the extent apparently that he had even invited Father Spencer to officiate at his wedding). It was only through therapy that his memories returned which led to him commencing proceedings against the school. The Jesuit school, which is defending the claims, will be looking to its insurance coverage in respect of any possible liability to Mr Raggett.
The exercise of the Court's discretion to ignore the statutory limitation period for bringing claims is now a major cause of concern to institutions most likely to attract abuse claims (and insurers on risk - primarily under public liability policies - in respect of such claims) following the landmark ruling of the House of Lords in A v. Hoare (click here to review our previous blog post).