Monday, 30 March 2009

Sex and the City lawyer

A FORMER City lawyer has launched a claim in the High Court that could set a very interesting precedent for all of us.
Patrick Raggett is suing the governors of his old school, and the Jesuit society which ran it, for £5million.
He claims his career was wrecked by sexual abuse at the hands of one priest during his time at Preston Catholic College in Lancashire.
The supposedly offending priest is now deceased, which gets one or other of them off the hook.
Mr Raggett says that after leaving school in 1976 he started to gamble, got into debt and underperformed at university. He had difficulty in forming relationships, drank excessively and took drugs.
All this I am prepared to believe. I know a lot of people you could say all that about. Some of it (the bit about "underperforming" anyway) you could say about me.
So who should we all sue?
Our old schools for failing to prepare us adequately to excel in later life?
Our parents ditto?
That old bloke who used to look at us funny when we got on the school bus?
What about the games teacher whose shortsightedness kept him from picking me for the school football team? He is obviously to blame for my failure to embark upon a playing career that might have led… well, anywhere.
A few starring games at left-back at the age of 14 and who knows – maybe, like Neil Warnock, I’d "still" be a Premier League manager now.
Perhaps I could also sue all those potential employers who unaccountably failed to see what a brilliant job I'd have done for them.
Then there's the question of how much we set our claim at. Why stop at a paltry £5m?
In my case, obviously, if I'd lived up to childhood promise and fulfilled my writing ambition, I'd be out-earning JK Rowling by now.
Of course, I doubt my old school (any or even all of them) could afford that much. But perhaps it's worth a try.
Now, all right, maybe I am getting silly now. But not as silly, it seems to me, as Mr Raggett. After all, I'm only indulging my fantasies in print – while he seems to think the world really does owe him a living. And a pretty decent one too.
I'm not denying that he may have been interfered with at school. I wouldn't know, would I?
And I'm certainly not saying it's OK for priests, teachers or anyone to do to children the sorts of things Mr Raggett apparently claims were done to him.
It's up to the High Court, with presumably a lot more evidence than I'll ever see, to decide what, if anything, that might have been.
But if he really wants to lay blame for all his own personal inadequacies at the door of one (conveniently dead) priest, he'll have to be pretty convincing. And there is one huge problem there.
He says himself he only realised he had been sexually abused three decades later "during a Sunday lunch with friends". Some Sunday lunch that must have been.
One does wonder what exactly his friends might have been telling him.
His whole claim is based on memories that have recently "surfaced". And you don't have to be an expert on Freud or psychoanalysis to know how dodgy "recovered memories" can be.
I once had a friend who blamed the breakdown of her already very bizarre marriage on having been abused by her father when she very young.
Yet she knew nothing of this supposed abuse until the memory was "recovered" with the help of a psychiatrist.
"Recovered" or "created", that is the question. A question neither I, the psychiatrist – nor my friend – will ever truly know the answer to, if we are honest.
In the meantime, has she been helped to "recover"? Or has her elderly dad been scurrilously smeared and her relationship with him ruined for the sake of a fashionable fiction?
As for Mr Raggett, is his recovered memory worth £5m – or should he, rather, be paying the school for enabling him to become a City lawyer at all?
He told the court: "My employment record is so far away from what it should have been. To know what one could have been and not be anything remotely approaching that is very painful."
I know the truth of that second sentence very well myself. I'm sure of lot of people reading this will have nodded at it too.
So should we all find someone to sue? Or should we learn to accept the blatant truth that life ain't fair? Count the blessings we do have.
And maybe, just maybe, take some responsibility ourselves for our own lives instead of playing victim and looking for someone to blame.

  • For legal reasons, this post did not appear as my column in the Ipswich Evening Star.

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