Victims of paedophile priest to sue church

The Yorkshire Post, UK/August 7, 2006
By Kate O'Hara

THE Catholic Church is being sued by victims of a former priest who they claim abused them when they were residents of a home for the deaf.

Eight men in their 40s who claim Father Neil Gallanagh abused them are taking part in a group action against him. If successful, they could be awarded up to £50,000 each, bringing the total payout to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A writ has been delivered to the Leeds Diocese and the case is expected to go to court by next summer.

This writ follows Gallanagh's conviction in 2005, when he admitted indecently assaulting two pupils of St John's Catholic School for the Deaf, in Boston Spa, between 1975 and 1980.

Instead of being jailed, Gallanagh, 76, resident chaplain at the home, walked free and was given a six-month suspended sentence at Leeds Crown Court.

It was agreed a further 12 charges against him of indecent assault dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, involving five other boys under 16 – including an 11-year-old – would be left on file.

The case is being brought by the same legal firm that is representing 140 men following abuse at a former Catholic children's home in East Yorkshire.

Last week the Yorkshire Post revealed that the organisations which ran the St William's Community Home in Market Weighton are being held responsible for allowing a brutal regime of sexual and physical abuse to run unchecked for nearly 30 years.

It is thought to be the country's biggest child abuse case centring on a single location. Many of the claimants' cases involve alleged rape which can carry compensation of upwards of £50,000.

Speaking about the Gallanagh case, David Greenwood, of Jordan's Solicitors in Dewsbury, said: "Our firm was approached after the court case against Neil Gallanagh. His victims were not happy with the outcome and still believe there is a need for further justice.

"It is our information that Gallanagh had committed sex offences before he worked at St John's and the Catholic Church were aware about his activities.

"We know he has other victims out there but many are just too frightened or intimidated by the Catholic Church to want to take the matter further. Their lives and those of the eight men who are taking this action have been ruined."

John Grady, spokesman for the Diocese of Leeds, confirmed the writ had been received.

He said last night: "The matter is in the hands of our solicitors and we have no comment to make."

The diocese said in a written statement: "The Diocese of Leeds has developed good policies and practice in regard to all aspects of the protection of children and vulnerable adults and has co-operated fully when approached by statutory authorities in regard to historical cases."

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