Nazareth abuse social worker loses legal bid
A social worker sacked over unproven allegations that he was part of a paedophile ring has lost a legal challenge over police handling of his case.
The man, who has not been named, worked at Nazareth House Children’s Home in Londonderry during the 1980s and 1990s.
He was contesting a ruling that the PSNI owed him no duty of care when informing his bosses at the children’s home that he was not regarded as fit to continue in the role.
Judges in the Court of Appeal upheld the decision after finding no evidence of negligence.
He was suspended in 1996 when a sexual allegation was made against him by a former resident.
Following an investigation he was reinstated and informed by the Director of Public Prosecutions that no further action was being taken.
But a year later two children – one aged five, the other 14 – identified him as being part of a ring of up to 50 adults involved in child sex abuse in the northwest.
Inquiries were carried out on both sides of the Irish border before it was again decided to take no further action.
In 1998 one of the Sisters of Nazareth who ran the home wrote to police seeking clarification the position of the man who was then suspended on full pay.
The correspondence set out how his employers wanted to decide on appropriate action without compromising the police investigation.
An acting assistant chief constable replied that exhaustive RUC and Garda investigations led to a direction of no prosecution.
However, he added that the police view was that the social worker was not a fit person to continue in his role “because of our paramount concern for the safety and welfare of children”.
After the man was dismissed in 1999 industrial tribunal proceedings resulted in a 5,000 payment being made to him.
The terms of the settlement stated that he acknowledged the money was not an admission of any fault on the part of his employers.
In his legal action he alleged the Chief Constable was under a duty to exercise reasonable care when tendering advice and providing information concerning him.
He claimed police failed to take steps to establish the truth of allegations made against him, to inform his employers they were unfounded and untrue, and allowed a senior officer to provide his bosses with misleading and detrimental statements about his suitability for social work.
Upholding the earlier High Court ruling, Lord Justice Girvan held there was no evidence to support arguments of an excess of police authority.
The judge said: “If a senior police officer with apparent authority to express the police view knowingly and contrary to the police view misstated the police view he would not be acting in good faith.
“Bad faith has not been pleaded or relied on in this case, nor was there any evidence or suggestion of the same.”
Lord Justice Girvan ruled that the High Court was right to grant a direction to police and throw out the man’s claim.
He added: “We dismiss the appeal accordingly.”