A High Court trial has begun which will decide the first cases in one of the biggest compensation claims involving the Roman Catholic church arising from allegations of historical sexual abuse.
A total of 249 men have lodged claims against the Diocese of Middlesbrough and the De La Salle Institute, which ran the St William’s children’s home in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire.
If the claims are successful the pay-outs are expected to run to millions of pounds.
Earlier this year, the former head of St William’s, James Carragher, was jailed for the third time after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.
Carragher, 75, had already been sentenced to 21 years in prison for sexually abusing boys when he was jailed for a further nine years in January.
He was jailed for seven years in 1993 and a further 14 years in 2004 for offences he committed at St William’s, which closed in 1992.
The judge in December said he and co-defendant Anthony McCallen had the boys at the school “effectively trapped” and added: “It is difficult to imagine a worse case of breach of trust.”
McCallen, 69, a former chaplain at St William’s, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a series of historical sex offences.
The jury heard how McCallen had also been convicted before - of abusing two boys in the 1990s when he was also found in possession of indecent photographs of boys, some of which he took through spyholes as they showered and used the toilet.
Judge Geoffrey Marson QC told the pair: “It’s perfectly clear that each of you targeted some of the most vulnerable boys. You groomed them, abused them for your own sexual gratification, then threatened them to ensure they did not complain. And you, Carragher, were physically violent.”
The criminal court cases heard how boys had been placed at the school because of difficult circumstances in their lives and were among the most vulnerable in society.
Judge Marson said in the January case: “They were effectively trapped and there was no escape from you.”
The judge said McCallen told one victim he was “paying for his sins” during the abuse.
David Greenwood, from solicitors Switalskis, has been pursuing the cases since 2003.
He said: “It is hoped that this trial will bring a positive conclusion to the cases for the many deserving victims of abuse at St William’s.
“There is no doubt that widespread sexual abuse of boys was taking place at St William’s. There have been many convictions in 1993, 2004 and 2015. This case is a test for our civil justice system. I hope it will be able to provide real justice.”
The trial, at the High Court in Leeds, involves claims from five of the claimants.
It is expected to last for three weeks.