YORK’S Roman Catholic diocese may appeal against a High Court decision which could leave it facing a bill for millions of pounds.
Judge Simon Hawkesworth QC, sitting in Leeds, ruled that the Middlesbrough Diocese, which includes the York area, was liable for running a former children’s home in East Yorkshire where scores of children were alleged to have been victims of physical and sexual abuse.
He decided that responsibility for St William’s Community Home in Market Weighton fell on the diocese rather than the De La Salle Brothers, a Catholic order of lay teachers.
The judgement paves the way for the victims to seek compensation from the diocese, dealing it a heavy financial blow.
But Dr Jim Whiston, the diocese’ financial secretary, told The Press the matter was far from settled, after the judge had granted the diocese leave to appeal against the decision.
He said the diocese’s legal advisors had been given until the end of January to decide whether to lodge an appeal, and no instant decision would be taken.
He dismissed reports that the total bill facing the diocese could come to as much as £8 million once all legal costs had been added to the costs of compensation, but conceded that the potential figure was “significant”.
He said it was unlikely that parishioners, for example in York, would have to contribute towards the costs.
The victims’ solicitors have said they hoped the diocese would consider settling the case following the judgment.
Children are alleged to have been systematically abused at the home between 1960 and its closure in 1992.
The former head teacher, Brother James Carragher, was jailed in 1993 for committing sex offences against boys, and jailed for a further 14 years in 2004 after being convicted of further abuses.
The home was operated by the Oxford-based Roman Catholic De La Salle Order of Christian Brothers, with the backing of the Catholic Child Welfare Society, Middlesbrough Diocese, which was formerly based in Lawrence Street, York.