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Church can be responsible for the wrongdoing of its priests

9 November 2011

Yesterday Mr Justice MacDuff gave his long awaited decision in favour of claimant JGE, who claims she was sexually assaulted by a Portsmouth priest Father Baldwin. The issue was whether the diocesan bishop could be vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of the priest.

The judge found that despite the facts that there had been no formal contract between the church and Father Baldwin, he was provided with the premises, the pulpit and the robes. Justice MacDuff added : “He had immense power handed to him by the defendants. It was they who appointed him to the position of trust, which (if the allegations be proved) he so abused.”

The question we now need to consider is whether this judgment is specific to its facts, or whether it may be extended by analogy to cover religious leaders of different faiths.

Unsurprisingly, given the potential ramifications, the church has been given permission to appeal.

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