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Abused law professor receives settlement

18 March 2016

Agreed damages: Dr Julie Macfarlane

Agreed damages: Dr Julie Macfarlane

A DIOCESE in the south of England has agreed a settlement with Dr Julie Macfarlane, the Canadian law professor who was abused as a teenager by a C of E priest.

In the settlement, Dr Macfarlane has agreed to accept £40,000 damages, and a further £40,000 to cover her legal costs.

Dr Macfarlane wrote about her ordeal in this paper three months ago (Comment, 11 December), eliciting an official church apology: “There are no words which can accurately reflect the extent of shame and regret that we felt on reading her account. We pay tribute to the depth of her bravery and courage in retelling the story, and offer our unreserved apology, not only for what happened but what she’s had to endure since.”

The apology refers in part to the struggle that Dr Macfarlane had with the diocese’s insurers, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), and its lawyers. In her article, she quoted a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s solicitors: “You will be aware of the constraints under which we in the profession have to work in dealing with these miserable matters. The scope for personal and sensitive engagement is very limited.”

Her experience mirrored that of “Joe”, when the Church abandoned any freedom of movement or duty of care as soon as a financial claim was made and the insurers moved in.

Dr Macfarlane wrote: “The problem is that the Church appears to have signed away all responsibility for relations with survivors when it agreed to the terms of its insurance policy.”

As with Joe, the financial settlement has not been Dr Macfarlane’s priority. A key part of the agreement is a “protocol-review meeting” with interested parties “to agree a protocol for the handling of claims for damages made by victims and survivors of abuse against a body within the Church of England”.

The meeting is to take place before 30 April, and “all endeavours” will be made to ensure that the protocol is in place before 30 June.

An Ecclesiastical spokesperson said: “We commend Dr Macfarlane’s strength and courage, and welcome the opportunity to meet with her, to discuss the process of handling claims made by victims and survivors of abuse, and to learn from her own experience.”

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