Victims take Church to court over St William's school sex abuse

James Carragher Image copyright EPA
Image caption James Carragher is in jail for sex offences against children at the home

Five child sex abuse victims have launched a High Court bid for compensation over abuse at a Catholic school in East Yorkshire.

More than 200 men claim they were abused at St William's residential school in Market Weighton between 1970 and 1991, run by the De La Salle order.

The order has apologised "unreservedly" to those affected by the abuse and for the actions of its former principal.

James Carragher is in jail for sex offences against children at the home.

If the compensation claim succeeds, the eventual payout could run into millions of pounds.

The school, which closed in 1992, provided residential care and education for boys aged 10 to 16 with emotional and behavioural problems.

It was run by the De La Salle brothers on behalf of Middlesbrough Diocese.

The order said it "deeply regrets what happened at St William's".

Image caption Nigel Feeley was abused at St William's by James Carragher

'Like giving candy to a baby'

Nigel Feeley was sent to St William's in 1972, when he was 13 years old. In 2004, James Carragher was found guilty of sexually abusing him at the home.

Mr Feeley said Carragher "had a gold card to sexually abuse children".

"It was like giving candy to a baby."

A former worker at the home told Inside Out in an anonymous interview that "brothers came and visited [the home] quite regularly and they would take children out".

He said: "it was a perfect opportunity for abuse".

Solicitor David Greenwood, acting for those claiming compensation, said St William's was "the biggest single home where boys were abused" that he had seen.

BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire discovered that the Catholic Church had several opportunities to investigate the abuse but failure to act meant boys continued to be abused for decades.

There have been three criminal investigations into abuse at the home.

James Carragher, of Cearns Road, Merseyside, who was principal from 1976-1990, is serving his third prison sentence for physically and sexually abusing boys there.

Image caption St William's Children's Home was run by the De La Salle Brothers, a Christian order of lay teachers

He was jailed for nine years in January after being found guilty of 21 indecent assaults and three serious sex offences. He was cleared of a further 30 charges.

Former chaplain Anthony McCallen, formerly of Whernside Crescent, Ingleby Barwick, Stockton-on-Tees, was jailed for 15 years after being convicted of 11 charges including a serious sexual offence. He was acquitted of eight other charges at the same trial.

Court documents seen by the BBC state that on 6 April 1970 an incident was investigated by a "sub-committee of managers" at the home.

The investigation concluded: "Brother James [Carragher] is a conscientious and useful member of the staff and having expressed his regret, no further action should be taken."

'Total condemnation'

Allegations of abuse continued into the 1980s. The BBC has seen written testimony from a boy at the home describing how Carragher hit him on the head "with his fist", "dragged" him onto the landing and "kicked" and "pulled" him down the stairs.

Documents show Carragher was subjected to an internal disciplinary hearing following the assault and was given a warning.

According to a letter sent to Humberside County Council in 1992, complaints at the home were deal with by the principal, meaning that for 14 years allegations were dealt with by the man - Carragher - who was carrying out the abuse.

A spokesman for the De La Salle Order said: "We repeat our total condemnation of the serious criminal behaviour of James Carragher, a former member of the De La Salle Brothers, during his time on the staff at St William's.

"We condemn, without reservation, any action or behaviour which harms young people.

"We deeply regret what happened at St William's and the harm that was done there through the behaviour of James Carragher. We unreservedly apologise to all who have been affected by his behaviour. Our hearts go out to all victims of abuse and their families."

A spokesman for the Diocese said: "Abusive behaviour has absolutely no place in the Catholic Church, or anywhere in society, and is against everything we stand for."

The compensation case is expected to last three weeks at the High Court in Leeds.

Watch a full report on BBC Inside Out - BBC One on Monday 31 October at 19:30 GMT in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

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