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£5m Claim Over 'Sex Abuse By Priest'

The Independent (UK), 24 March 2009 by Mark Hughes, Crime Correspondent

Patrick Raggett leaves the High Court yesterday
PA Patrick Raggett leaves the High Court yesterday

A former City lawyer who claims that the sexual abuse he suffered at a Catholic boys' school stopped him from fulfilling his potential and led him to have a breakdown nearly 30 years later has launched a £5m compensation claim.

Patrick Raggett told the High Court that he was subjected to years of molestation by Father Michael Spencer at Preston Catholic College in Lancashire, but that he only realised he had been sexually abused three decades later during a Sunday lunch with friends.

Mr Raggett, 50, said he did not connect his underachievement with the alleged abuse until after his breakdown in April 2005. Yesterday he told the court: "My employment record is so far away from what it should have been. To know what one could have been and not be anything remotely approaching that is very painful."

The former lawyer, who left his job three years ago after his breakdown, says he had done exceptionally well at school before attending the college in 1969 where, he said, "the Jesuits ruled with a rod of iron". After leaving in 1976 he started to gamble, got into debt and underperformed at university. He had difficulty in forming relationships, drank excessively and took drugs.

He is suing the Society of Jesus and the governors of the school, which closed in 1978. He says the alleged abuse, which lasted for seven years, was carried out solely by Fr Spencer, who died in 2001 aged 76, and that other staff knew what was going on but did nothing. Both defendants deny liability. Mr Raggett has waived the right to anonymity granted to all alleged abuse victims in court, and says that his lack of comprehension about what he suffered was such that he even sought out Fr Spencer in later life to conduct his wedding ceremony.

He said: "Until the episode of April 2005 the only conscious memory I had was of Fr Spencer taking cine film of me naked and rubbing my groin. If asked I would have ... dismissed him as an eccentric. It was only once memories surfaced that I began to understand what had happened."

Mr Raggett must, before being granted a full trial, overcome the defence's insistence that his claim is "statute barred" because of the length of time that elapsed before he lodged his complaint in February 2007.

Former City lawyer claims record £5 million over alleged sex abuse at Jesuit school

A former high-flying City lawyer yesterday launched a record £5 million legal battle over claims that he was sexually abused as a child at his Jesuit school.

The Daily Telegraph, 23 Mar 2009 by Nick Allen

Former City lawyer claims record £5 million over alleged sex abuse at Jesuit school
Former City lawyer Patrick Raggett claims record £5 million over alleged sex abuse at Jesuit school Photo: GEOFF PUGH

Patrick Raggett, 50, claims he suffered a devastating breakdown after recollections of the abuse returned to haunt him four decades later.

Mr Raggett, who has waived his right to anonymity, is suing the governors of Preston Catholic College in Lancashire, which was operated by the Society of Jesus.

He alleges they were negligent in failing to protect him from a "flamboyantly homosexual" Jesuit priest named Father Michael Spencer, who died in 2001 aged 76.

The governors deny liability and also maintain that Mr Raggett has left it too long to sue. The college closed in 1978.

If successful the claim will be by far the biggest of its kind seen in Britain. The previous largest damages payout for sexual abuse was £600,000.

Mr Raggett's claim is based on him missing out on earnings, estimated at around £400,000 a year, as well as other benefits such as pensions.

Robert Seabrook QC, for Mr Raggett, told the court his client attended the college between 1969 and 1976 and it was "ruled with a rod of iron" by Jesuit priests.

Father Spencer taught French and coached one of the school football teams, which Mr Raggett captained.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place over several years with Mr Raggett required to undress and "adopt various poses" while the priest filmed him, Mr Seabrook said.

Father Spencer also fondled Mr Raggett's groin and private parts and committed a degrading sex act, he said.

The acts of abuse were witnessed by other staff members who took no action to keep the pupil "safe" despite becoming aware of the priest's "propensity", Mr Seabrook said.

Mr Seabrook said: "Lest it be inferred he was a kindly educationalist in holy orders, the truth was quite the contrary.

"Under the cloak of priestly godliness and respectability he was an intrusive and brazenly abusive man who was widely recognised as being a very unsatisfactory person for having responsibility for teaching children."

On occasion Father Spencer took Mr Raggett to see George Best play for Manchester United and would squeeze his thigh when a goal was scored, the court heard.

Mr Raggett "buried" memories of the abuse and they only resurfaced in 2005 "crashing over him" during a quiet Sunday lunch with friends, one of whom was a priest.

He had already lost his job with a top City law firm in 1997, due to drinking and aggressive behaviour, but had not at that point associated his behaviour with having been abused, the court heard.

Mr Raggett said: "Before that Sunday I would never have regarded myself as a victim of sexual abuse. I had no inkling that I had been injured or harmed in any way. I would have laughed with something like scorn if anyone had ever suggested it to me.

"After my breakdown that Sunday the way I viewed my whole life, the events in it, my inner life, utterly changed. A taint covered everything, together with a raw, overwhelming sadness and pain."

Evidence supporting Mr Raggett's claims is expected from several fellow pupils.

The hearing continues.