St Ninian's abuse survivor awarded £1.4million in damages

Man looking out to sea

A MAN who was abused by monks has secured what is thought to be the highest sum ever awarded to a survivor in Scotland.

The man, known as AB, was assaulted and beaten by notorious Brothers Ryan, Farrell and Kelly between 1980 and 1981 while he stayed at St Ninian’s School in Falkland, Fife.

AB was so traumatised that he was robbed of a future – he was unable to work and had problems maintaining relationships.

He finally found the courage to open up for the first time in November 2013 and later, after the monks were convicted, AB made a historic abuse claim with Digby Brown.

The Christian Brothers, a religious sect that ran the school, did try to have the legal case thrown out but a sheriff dismissed the attempt and ordered them to pay damages.

AB – who cannot be named for legal reasons – now hopes his landmark victory will inspire others in their quest for justice after he secured the recognition he deserved.

He said: “Finally, after nearly 40 years, I’ve been acknowledged and those responsible can be exposed.

“I used to hide all my emotions. If there was something about abuse on the TV then I’d go to the toilet and hide so no one would see any reaction on my face.

“So when I finally spoke to the police there was a strange duality to everything.

“It was terrifying but empowering. Exhausting but freeing. Painful but therapeutic.

“I still wonder if speaking out when I did was the right time and how things might have been different if I waited one more year.

“But all that matters is I did speak – and I was believed.”

On 22 July 2016 at the High Court in Glasgow Brother Farrell was convicted of four abuse charges and Brother Kelly was convicted of six charges.

They were both jailed on 12 August 2016 – Farrell for five years and Kelly for 10 years.

But Brother Ryan died in July 2013 before he could be investigated.

AB’s evidence did not play a part in the convictions but a sheriff ruled the abuse did occur due to the volume of supporting evidence gathered during a historic abuse claim with Digby Brown's Non-Accidental team.

The Christian Brothers sect, who ran St Ninian’s at the time of the abuse, tried to have the civil action thrown out as the death of Brother Ryan meant they couldn’t investigate AB’s allegations.

But Sheriff Christopher Dickson dismissed this argument and ordered the Christian Brothers to pay AB £1.39m in damages in recognition of the lifelong impact.

In his 173-page judgment, Sheriff Dickson said: “I did not consider that the death of one of three alleged abusers automatically resulted in the defender proving substantial prejudice in so far as the case is directed against Brother Ryan.

“The pursuer’s psychiatric conditions have prevented him from working for the past 38 years. I find that the defender is liable to make reparation to the pursuer.”

Welcoming the court decision, AB said:

“Even though the Crown couldn’t prosecute anyone in relation to my evidence I am glad the Sheriff and court believed me.

“When it comes to justice in cases like mine people often ask things like ‘It must have been worth the wait?’

“I know what they mean but no – it’s never worth the wait. Not when you remember WHY we’ve been waiting.

“I’ll always feel the pain. I’ll always have flashbacks.

“But at least now I’m not alone. I am supported. I have been recognised.

“I can now slowly look to the future instead of being chained to my past.”

Kim Leslie, Partner at Digby Brown, led the legal fight that helped AB secure the landmark victory – a result that shows the difference between the civil courts and Redress Scotland payments.

She said: “Firstly, I’d like to pay tribute to AB for speaking out then staying steadfast as he took on a religious organisation - it makes this ruling all the more poignant.

“We’re not aware of any higher sums every being awarded to a survivor so this settlement is truly a landmark one – not just for AB but for survivors everywhere as it shows legal actions offer recognition even when the criminal system can’t.

“No amount of compensation or redress can alter the past but it can help improve a person’s future – but just as importantly, cases like these hold those responsible to account which in turn improves access to justice for others.”

AB's victory was reported across the national media including The Scottish Sun, Daily Mail, The Herald and the BBC.

 

Kim Leslie, Head of our Non-Accidental team, highlights what the landmark £1.4million settlement means for abuse survivors and their redress or civil claims.