'I was raped, beaten and hung by the neck' Christian Brothers abuse survivor wins five-figure payout after 40-year fight for justice
By James Moncur, August 24, 2017, Daily Record
Dave Sharp is the first person in Scotland to win a payment from the Catholic order – decades after he was abused at St Ninian’s residential school in Fife.
An abuse victim has won a 40-year fight to secure compensation from the notorious Christian Brothers monks.
Dave Sharp was awarded a “significant five-figure sum” decades after he was repeatedly raped and beaten at St Ninian’s residential school in Fife.
He is the first person in Scotland to win a payout from the Catholic order, who ran residential schools for children across the world.
The payment is likely to allow hundreds of other Scottish victims to win compensation for historical abuse at various organisations.
Dave, 59, said: “I hope my payment is the first of many the Christian Brothers are forced to make to those men whose lives have been wrecked because of the treatment they received as children in Scotland’s residential homes and schools.
“There are dozens of victims out there who have far stronger cases than mine.
“In some cases their abusers are still alive, while in others they have already secured victories and convictions in the criminal courts.
“If I can win, then so can they. They must come forward and tell their stories. There is help and support out there for all survivors, regardless of the institutions they were abused in. They will be believed and helped.
“It’s time that all institutions, regardless of religious denomination or background, are held accountable for the crimes of their staff.”
Boys at St Ninian’s, in Falkland, were all in need of care as a result of being orphaned, neglected or outwith parental control.
Pupils were sent by social work departments across Scotland but the school catered mostly for children from the old Strathclyde and Tayside regional council areas.
It housed up to 45 boys at a time and was run by members of the Christian Brothers between 1952 and 1983.
Dave’s tormentor, former headteacher Brother Gerry Ryan, has since died. Dave, 59, told how he was tied up, abused and hung by the neck in a freezing basement shower room repeatedly between the ages of 10 and 16.
He said: “Even now, years later, I still get flashbacks of being hung by a piece of rope round my neck on to the shower, and my hands tied behind my back, and him beating me with a belt.”
Dave was forced to seek justice in an English court because in Scotland, abuse victims have just three years from the date of their injury – or from their 16th birthday – to bring a civil court action.
That time bar will be removed under a key change in Scots law to come into effect in November.
Victims will be able to seek compensation as long as they were under 18 at the time of the abuse.
The Scottish Government believe it will allow about 2200 people abused since September 1964 to seek justice in civil courts.
Dave works with support group Wellbeing Scotland and has set up his own team called SAFE – Seek And Find Everyone – to track down victims.
Dave’s victory comes after ex-St Ninian’s headteacher John Farrell, 74, and colleague Paul Kelly, 65, were jailed for a total of 15 years for abusing and sexually assaulting six boys in the 70s and 80s.
Patrick McGuire, lead partner on historic abuse at Thompsons solicitors in Glasgow, welcomed the decision to move the time bar.
He said: “The public are fully behind the survivors. The law is now on their side and with strong solicitors by their side, survivors will receive the compensation to which they are entitled in law.”
An independent Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into historical abuse is under way, led by judge Lady Smith.
More than 60 institutions, including several private schools and church bodies, are being investigated.
Alastair Gillespie, who acted for the Congregation of Christian Brothers (CCB) in Dave’s case, said: “Mr Sharp alleged that he was sexually abused by a teacher while a pupil of St Ninian’s during the early 1970s, and that as a result, he has suffered injury and loss.
“The CCB and its legal representatives reviewed Mr Sharp’s allegations and decided it was appropriate to seek to resolve the claim before it became formally litigated in the courts.
“Any claim that might be made is considered very carefully on the facts and evidence which are unique and specific to that claim.”
When pressed on why Dave has yet to receive a full apology from the Christian Brothers, Mr Gillespie added: “The CCB has already expressed regret regarding Mr Sharp’s allegations and reiterates that expression of regret.”
The Catholic Church in Scotland said: “Compensation payments or counselling arrangements made by religious orders are entirely a matter for them.
“Since the details of any such agreements would not be shared with other parties, it is not possible to comment on them.
“Between 2001 and 2015, the Catholic Church issued a number of apologies to anyone who had ‘suffered any form of abuse at the hands of those representing the Catholic Church’.
"Most recently, in August 2015, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia offered a profound apology to all those who have been harmed and who have suffered in any way as a result of actions by anyone within the Catholic Church."
Yesterday, Dave thanked the Daily Record for supporting his fight for justice.
He said our hard-hitting reports on the Christian Brothers were key to a positive outcome and added: “The thing these organisations hate the most is negative publicity and people shining a light on how they work.
“The Daily Record never gave up on me and gave me the voice I needed to take on the Christian Brothers and the Catholic Church.”
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.