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College sued over sex abuse claim

23 March 09 16:04 GMT

A former City lawyer has launched a £5m damages claim against a Jesuit-run school over sexual abuse he allegedly suffered there during the 1970s.

Patrick Raggett, 50, suffered a breakdown after losing his job in 1997 over his aggressive behaviour and drinking, the High Court heard.

The case against Preston Catholic College will be heard over five days.

The priest at the centre of the allegations died in 2001, preventing proceedings being launched against him.

'Insidious abuse'

Father Michael Spencer taught French and religious education at the school and subjected Mr Raggett to years of "insidious" abuse, said his counsel Robert Seabrook QC.

Mr Raggett, who has waived anonymity, said he knew he was making a mess of his life but did not connect his experiences at school with years of under-achievement at work, failed marriage and binge drinking, until he had a breakdown in April 2005.

"My employment record is so far away from what it should have been - that causes me a huge amount of anguish," he said.

"To know what one could have been and not be anything remotely approaching that is very painful," he said.

Mr Raggett was known to his schoolmates as "Spencer's pet".

'Cherubic boy'

Father Spencer took an instant liking to the "cherubic rather pretty little boy" who was captain of the under-11 team, said counsel.

Mr Raggett was one of three boys whom the priest examine while they were naked.

"Lest it be inferred he was a kindly educationalist in holy orders, the truth was quite the contrary," said Robert Seabrook QC.

"Under the cloak of priestly godliness and respectability, he was an intrusive and brazenly abusive man who was widely recognised as being a very unsatisfactory person for having responsibility for teaching children."

This is thought to be the first case of its kind against the Jesuit order in the UK. Many abuse claims have been brought against the order in the US.

Psychiatric experts are expected to testify that the lawyer's drinking and behavioural problems stem from the years of sex abuse he suffered.

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