Roman Catholic Church refused Supreme Court sex abuse appeal

Lawyers for the claimant believe it could become a test case for further claims

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A woman who claims she was sexually abused by a priest is set to sue the Roman Catholic Church after it was refused a last chance to reverse a ruling holding it responsible.

The church argued it could not be held liable as no formal employment relationship with its clergy existed.

It lost a High Court case in 2011 and has now been refused permission to take the appeal to the Supreme Court.

The woman said she was abused a priest of the Portsmouth Diocese.

Lawyers for the claimant, who is set to pursue a civil case, said it was the first time a court had been asked to rule on whether the "relationship between a Catholic priest and his bishop is akin to an employment relationship".

They believe it could become a test case for further claims.

'Naturally delighted'

In 2011, the High Court ruled the church could be held liable for the wrongdoings of its priests.

Mr Justice Macduff decided the professional relationship between a priest and his bishop was sufficiently close so as to impose responsibility.

The Court of Appeal upheld the ruling last year and the Supreme Court has now refused permission for a further appeal because "the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance".

Tracey Emmott, the woman's lawyer, said: "She is naturally delighted. She has been through nearly five years of torment since first notifying the Portsmouth Diocese of her abuse.

"The behaviour of the church in this case has only further tarnished its reputation."

The woman claims she was repeatedly sexually abused and raped by Father William Baldwin, from the age of six at a children's home run by nuns near Portsmouth in the 1970s.

Father Baldwin died in 2006.

Rev Stephen Morgan, from the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, said: "We are obviously disappointed at the decision of the Supreme Court not to hear our appeal, however we have to accept it.

"The actual matter of the allegations have yet to be tested in court."

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