State Intends to Make Sexual Abuse Victim Pay Its Legal Costs
By Dan Buckley
One in Four [Ireland]
July 20, 2006
A man awarded €300,000 for sexual abuse he suffered as a child, at the hands of a schoolmaster, is unlikely ever to recover any damages.
In fact, he may face legal bills as the State has indicated it will pursue him for its legal costs in the case.
The 46-year-old man was abused over four years by John Hannon, a former Franciscan brother who was principal of St Colman's National School in Cummer, Tuam, Co Galway. The abuse began in the early 1970s when the victim was nine years old.
On Tuesday, the High Court decided that neither the State nor the Franciscan order had any liability for the damage caused to the man. The award was made against Hannon who, having spent eight years in jail for similar offences, is unlikely to be able to pay his victim.
The victim said he was "appalled that nobody has been held responsible for failures to properly monitor" the teacher's conduct in national schools. He said he was devastated by the decision.
A spokesman for the support organisation, One in Four, described as "both damning and alarming" the failure to hold any agency or authority responsible.
"It yet again raises the question of who is responsible for the welfare of children in State-funded schools," said the charity's director, Colm O'Gorman.
He pointed to similarities in the case of Louise O'Keefe, and criticised the State for failing to monitor teachers and take responsibility for abuse perpetrated in its schools.
"At what point will the State take responsibility for the education of our children? The same system applies today – a teacher may abuse a child and the State which trains, inspects and pays the salary of that teacher are not responsible or liable in any way and most alarmingly have no responsibility in law to prevent such abuse in the first place."
John Hannon taught in the education system for 15 years, in three different schools. When laicised he took up a teaching position, as recently as 1993.
After leaving the religious order, he married and had five children.
Hannon, 65, was sentenced to 10 years in prison at Tullamore Circuit Court in Feburary 1998, after pleading guilty to 16 sample charges from an original total of 39, which included 28 counts of indecent assault, nine of buggery and two of attempted buggery.
In June 1998 at Galway Circuit Court, Hannon pleaded guilty to a further 18 sample charges including buggery and indecent assault on young children at a school in Co Galway between 1967 and 1972.
He was released from prison on October 3 last and is staying in the Midlands.
During Tuesday' hearing the Franciscan Order stated it would not make an application for costs.
However, the fact that the Department of Education is seeking to recover costs "has further traumatised and humiliated this victim," said Mr O'Gorman.
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