Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 15:48 UK

Church 'not liable' for sex abuse

Christopher Clonan
Clonan is thought to have died in Australia in 1998

The Catholic Church is not liable for the sexual abuse suffered by a man over 30 years ago, the High Court has ruled.

He said he was abused as a boy by Fr Christopher Clonan while he served at Coventry's Church of Christ the King. Police believe Clonan died in 1998.

Mr Justice Jack said he was satisfied the essence of the man's evidence was true and that he was sexually abused.

But he said the Church was not liable as the man, now 45, cleaned for Clonan "which was not a priestly activity".

Mr Justice Jack found in favour of the Trustees of the Birmingham Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church, who had denied liability.

The man, who can be identified only as Maga, has learning difficulties and has never worked.

Appeal permission

He was aged 12 or 13 when he was abused by the priest over many months in about 1976, the court heard.

He sought legal action in 2006, after learning another man who was abused by Clonan had recovered damages from the Catholic Church.

Mr Justice Jack, sitting in London, said Maga had been associated with Clonan because he cleaned the priest's car, cleaned the presbytery and other houses and ironed Clonan's clothes.

The judge said it meant the assaults on Maga were not so closely connected with Clonan's employment that it would be fair to hold the Catholic Church liable.

He said: "That employment was not a priestly activity.

"Fr Clonan did not do anything to draw the claimant into the activities of the Church."

Maga, who brought the case through the official solicitor, was given permission to appeal.

Clonan is believed to have died in Australia in 1998. He was on the run from British police at the time.

He has cost the Catholic Church about £1m in compensation payments.

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