Diocese Faces Another Lawsuit | Beckett Injury Lawyers

December 24, 2004

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A London man who claims he was sexually abused by retired priest Barry Glendinning has filed a $3-million negligence and breach of trust lawsuit against the Roman Catholic diocese of London.

Also named as defendants in the suit brought by 47-year-old Tom Lawrence are Glendinning and the diocese’s bishop, Ronald Fabbro.

And, in an unusual twist, lawyers for Lawrence claim the abuse against him also brought on schizophrenia, a mental illnesss he has suffered for more than 20 years.

“We intend to prove the schizophrenia Tom suffers was brought on not just by drug abuse, but by the sexual abuse,” lawyer Paul Ledroit said at a news conference yesterday. “There is a relationship between mental illness and the use of street drugs and sex abuse.”

The lawsuit, which also seeks compensation for costs and interest, contains allegations not yet proven in court.

A spokesperson for the diocese and Fabbro could not immediately be reached for comment. A statement of defence has not been filed.

Lawrence sat quietly beside Ledroit and Glendinning abuse victim John Swales at yesterday’s news conference.

A successful lawsuit by Swales and other family members blazed the trail for recent lawsuits against the church, Glendinning and another convicted priest.

In August, Essex truck driver Bob Burleigh, a Glendinning victim, received a $500,000 out-of-court settlement from the diocese.

A month earlier, two former London men filed lawsuits amounting to $6 million, plus interest and costs, against the diocese and convicted sex abuser, retired Rev. John Harper, their teacher between 1960 and the early 1970s.

Ledroit said schizophrenia is a genetic mental illness that often remains dormant. He said it can be triggered by drug abuse, such as use of marijuana or LSD.

Lawrence heavily used illegal drugs, especially LSD, until diagnosed with schizophrenia at 26. He has been hospitalized several times, he said. When questioned, Lawrence appeared nervous, his answers at times disjointed.

“I knew Tom when he was a young man. That man no longer exists,” said Swales, who comforted and encouraged him at the news conference.

Ledroit said he’s unaware of any similar lawsuits in Canada that allege sexual abuse caused a mental illness.

Glendinning, a former St. Peter’s Seminary teacher who now lives in Toronto, pleaded guilty in 1974 to abusing six children. Lawrence was not among the six victims identified in that case.

Swales and members of his family received a judgment of more than $2.7 million in a 2003 civil suit against the diocese and Glendinning.

Lawrence, like Burleigh, was a witness at the Swales’ civil trial, but his name was not published under terms of a court order.

Swales, who now works with Ledroit’s law firm on sexual abuse cases, said he met Lawrence through Glendinning.

The suit contends that in 1967, Glendinning befriended Lawrence, then ten and the son of a widowed mother of five.

It’s alleged Glendinning introduced Lawrence to sexual acts including masturbation, oral sex, simulated intercourse, group sex with other children, nude body painting, skinny-dipping and massage.

The abuse occurred at the seminary, on camping trips and other excursions for three years until 1970, the plaintiff contends.

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