Religious sect ordered to pay Scottish abuse victim record breaking £1.4million damages

15 February 2022, 00:02 | Updated: 15 February 2022, 08:25

A religious sect has been ordered to pay a Scottish abuse victim £1.4 million in damages
A religious sect has been ordered to pay a Scottish abuse victim £1.4 million in damages. Picture: Alamy

By Caitlin Hutchison

A religious sect has been ordered to pay a Scottish abuse victim almost £1.4 million in damages - thought to be a record sum.

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The man, identified only as AB for legal reasons, said he was repeatedly sexually abused by Brothers Ryan, Farrell and Kelly during his time at St Ninian's School in the Falkland area of Fife around 40 years ago.

Now 54 years old, AB was awarded the damages in a written judgement by a sheriff who dismissed an attempt by The Christian Brothers sect to get the legal case thrown out.

In a statement after the ruling, AB said he hopes the landmark decision will inspire other abuse victims to fight for justice.

He said: "Finally, after nearly 40 years, I've been acknowledged and those responsible can be exposed."

AB was sent to St Ninian's in February 1980 when he was 12 years old and stayed there until April 1981, during which time he said he was raped, sexually assaulted and beaten by all three monks, mostly in the Brothers' bedrooms.

AB said Kelly, Farrell and Ryan commonly targeted children from a dormitory they referred to as "the favourite boys room" from which he said pupils would often hear screams.

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AB first told his wife and daughter the truth about his past in 2013, when he spoke to police.

He said: "I just broke down in tears. Until then I'd been living in my head for 30 years.

"So, when I finally spoke to the police, there was a strange duality to everything.

"It was terrifying but empowering. Exhausting but freeing. Painful but therapeutic."

Another victim, Dave Sharp, was the first person in Scotland to win a payment from the Christian Brothers, decades after he was abused at St Ninian’s.

He became a campaigner, encouraging other victims of abuse to come forward, and was awarded a five figure sum in 2017.

He told LBC: "Any payment, to me, is a celebration, because I know the journey that person took.

"The amount - am I envious, am I jealous? Of course I am, but at the same I'm proud of the work I've done...we are making progress.

"Most survivors will celebrate this as a victory for survivors in the sense that, yeah, justice was done.

"If it was just for one, that's fine. A lot of people will accept that and be happy with that.

"The fact that people are working and fighting for us is important."

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Dave plans to return to the site of the former school today, 50 years since his own traumatic experiences there, to say a prayer for others like him and to try and find some closure.

The civil case heard AB has suffered mentally and physically as a result of the alleged abuse, experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks and self-harm.

He went on to develop drug and alcohol problems, taking cannabis and heroin, and attempted suicide.

In July 2016, at the High Court in Glasgow, Brother Farrell was convicted of four abuse charges and Brother Kelly was convicted of six charges.

Both charges involved children aged between 11 and 15 years old.

They were both jailed in August 2016 - Farrell for five years and Kelly for 10 years.

Brother Ryan died in July 2013 before he could be investigated.

AB's evidence was not included in the convictions, but earlier this month sheriff Christopher Dickson ruled there was enough proof the Christian Brothers sect is liable to pay damages.

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The religious group, which accepted that Brother Ryan was a predatory paedophile, tried to have the civil action thrown out as the death of the monk meant they could not investigate AB's allegations.

They also said there were "large gaps" in AB's evidence and argued that memory was "especially unreliable" when it comes to recalling the past.

Kim Leslie, Partner at Digby Brown, said she is not aware of any higher sums ever being awarded to a victim and described the settlement as a "landmark" case.

"No amount of compensation or redress can alter the past but it can help improve a person's future but, just as importantly, cases like these hold those responsible to account which in turn improves access to justice for others."

According to evidence in the written judgment, police investigations have identified dozens of victims of abuse linked to St Ninian's.