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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Woman loses child abuse test case
The test case was heard at the Court of Session
A woman who claims that she was abused in a Catholic children's home when she was a young girl has lost a bid to sue the religious order which ran it.

About 150 other claims against the Poor Sisters of Nazareth will fall after the decision in Mrs Abernethy's test case.

Elizabeth Abernethy, 55, was seeking compensation over alleged abuse at the Nazareth House, Glasgow, in the 1950s.

But a judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Mrs Abernethy should have made her claim sooner.

Temporary judge Gordon Coutts ruled the action was time-barred and should be dismissed.

More than 500 damages cases against the religious order, which ran homes throughout Scotland, have been raised at the Court of Session.

This decision was expected, but it is not the end of the road.
Solicitor Cameron Fyfe

Although about 150 will fall after this test case decision, a further 350 cases involving others who were in the home more recently, are being pursued.

Solicitor Cameron Fyfe said: "This decision was expected, but it is not the end of the road. MSPs are looking at the possibility of changing the law and if that were to happen, these people might still have an action.

"By Mr Coutts' judgement, around 150 action like Mrs Abernethy's will have gone unless the Scottish Parliament can rescue them," he said.

Mrs Abernethy, of Belvedere Road, Liverpool, was taken to Nazareth House as a three-month-old baby and left at 11 when she was sent to a convent on Merseyside.

Although she left Nazareth House in 1959 she did not raise proceedings against the religious order until 2000.

Physical injury

She claimed that she was regularly assaulted from the age of five either as punishment or as deterrence.

Mr Coutts said that if her claims were established they would portray "a horrifying picture of inappropriate and uncaring discipline and neglect all of which caused actual physical injury".

Mrs Abernethy said one nun, who is now dead, regularly told her she was mentally retarded. She was told the Devil was in her and she would not get to Heaven.

The religious order denied the claims and its lawyers argued that the case should be held to be time-barred.

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