The Court of Appeal gave judgment today in JL v Archbishop Bowen and the Scout Association.
The JL’s case at trial was that he had been abused by an older man from the age of 16 ½ until aged 31. The background was that JL had come to know and become friendly with an older man (who was a priest and a scout chaplain) over the preceding 8 years. The trial judge rejected JL’s claims that the relationship was abusive except in the first three years (until he went off to university) on the basis that any apparent consent in that initial period could not be called true or free consent. The judge also rejected the claim that such abuse had caused him any financial losses, let alone the figure of more than £500,000 claimed.
The Defendants had permission to appeal on issues of consent, vicarious liability and limitation as well as on two separate issues concerning the claimant’s credibility and the judge’s approach to a letter that he wrote to the Court after the trial but before judgment.
In the event, the CA found it necessary to deal only with limitation and allowed the appeal. It noted that the alleged abuse took place between 1984 and 1987 and that the alleged abuser was arrested and JL gave a statement to the Police in 1999, following which the older man was sent to prison having pleaded guilty in the Crown Court to various charges including some of having indecently assaulted this claimant. However, it was not until November 2011 that JL issued proceedings having undergone therapy in late 2009/early 2010. By the time the trial took place in March 2015, the alleged abuser was dead.
The CA allowed the appeal on the basis that the trial judge had underestimated the true length of the delay before issuing proceedings and had been wrong to find that JL had any good reason for that delay. The Court also accepted that both Defendants had been significantly prejudiced by that delay as regards investigating the nature of the relationship before the abuse allegedly began, as to the circumstances of that abuse and on the issue of vicarious liability.
For those reasons (in summary) the appeal was allowed. See here for the full judgment.
William Norris QC, instructed by Ian Carroll of Hill Dickinson, acted for Archbishop Bowen.