THE Catholic church is being sued by victims of a former priest who they claim abused them when they were residents of a home for the deaf.
Eight men in their 40s who claim Neil Gallanagh abused them are taking part in a group action against him. If successful, they could be awarded up to £50,000 each – bringing the total payout to more than £500,000.
A writ has been delivered to the Catholic Diocese of Leeds in England, where the former priest is based, and the case is expected to come to court by next summer, 2007.
It’s the latest of a number of writs lodged against the Catholic Church.
This latest case follows Gallanagh’s conviction in 2005 when he pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two pupils of St John’s Catholic School for the Deaf, in Boston Spa, between 1975 and 1980.
Instead of receiving the jail sentence his victims had hoped for, the 76-year-old – who was a resident chaplain at the home where he moved after serving at a parish in Ireland – walked free and was given a six-month suspended at Leeds Crown Court.
It was agreed that a further 12 charges against Gallanagh of indecent assault dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, involving five other under-16 boys – including an 11-year-old – would be “left on the file”.
The case is being brought by the same legal firm that is representing 140 victims of abuse by Catholic priests at another UK care home.
David Greenwood, of Jordan’s Solicitors, in West Yorkshire, England, said: “Our firm was approached after the court case against Neil Gallanagh.
“His victims were not happy with the outcome and still believe there is a need for further justice.
“It is our information that Gallanagh had committed sex offences before he worked at St John’s and the Catholic Church were aware about his activities.
“We know he has other victims out there but many are just too frightened or intimidated by the Catholic Church to want to take the matter further.
“Their lives and those of the eight men who are taking this action have been ruined and the fact that Gallanagh was able to walk free despite being convicted of abuse just added insult to injury.”
John Grady, spokesman for the Diocese of Leeds, confirmed the writ had been received.
But he said last night: “The matter is in the hands of our solicitors and we have no comment to make.”