Off the hook

Rosie Mullaley
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Province found not liable in case of alleged sexual abuse by priest

Ronald Bromley

WARNING: This story contains graphic content.

The provincial government has been found not liable in a case of sexual abuse alleged by a former boys’ home resident.

In a decision released Monday, Newfoundland Supreme Court Justice James Adams dismissed the claim by Louis Rich.

Adams ruled Rich failed to prove allegations that he had been sexually assaulted by Roman Catholic priest Father Ronald Bromley in the 1970s while he was a resident of the Whitbourne Boys’ Home.

The judge determined not only did Rich fail to prove his claims of sexual abuse, but even if he had, the province would not have been legally responsible.

“In all,” Adams said in his ruling, “I find that Louis Rich has not led evidence sufficient to satisfy me on the balance of probabilities that he was sexually assaulted by Ronald Bromley in the manner he alleges, or at all.

“On this basis alone, Mr. Rich’s claim must be dismissed.”

Moreover, the judge ruled, Rich still failed to prove that the province should be held vicariously liable for the actions of a volunteer priest over whom it exercised no direction or control.

“There was no evidence led on what the standard of care was at the time in the 1960s and 1970s,” Adams said.

“Nor was there any evidence that the (home’s) director, the superintendent or any other person knew of anything which would lead them to believe that Ronald Bromley would commit the acts alleged by Mr. Rich.”

After all, Adams added, clergy at that time were held in very high regard and Bromley had been presented as a respectable person “who simply wanted to help disadvantaged children turn their lives around.”

Rich — born in Sheshatshiu, Labrador, and a member of the Innu First Nation — alleged that in 1976 or 1977, when he was 12 or 13 years old, he had been sexually and physically assaulted by Bromley while he was a resident at the Whitbourne Boys’ Home, a correctional institution run by the province.

Bromley — who was the parish priest in Whitbourne at the time — had been given permission by government authorities to take boys, including Rich, on outings, including overnight stays at his cabin on Placentia Junction.

Rich claimed it was while at the cabin that Bromley assaulted him twice in one day. It included Bromley touching his privates and forcing Rich to perform oral sex on him.

Bromley died in 2004, but Rich still pursued the case.

Rich’s suit — first filed in August 2005 — originally also included claims against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Grand Falls and Bromley’s estate.

But once a settlement was reached with the church, he dropped the action against the diocese. The amounts of the settlement are confidential.

Rich also discontinued the case against Bromley’s estate.

However, the suit continued against the provincial government.

“It seems to me,” Adams said, “to be contrary to the policy of fair compensation and deterrence underlying the law of vicarious liability for Rich to be allowed to pursue the province where there is almost no basis on which to ground a claim in vicarious liability for the actions of Bromley when he has declined to pursue arguably the real employer of Bromley (the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation).”

But much of the case rested on the fact that Adam considered Rich to be an unreliable witness.

Rich, who has a troubled background and a lengthy criminal record, was not clear in his memory of the alleged incidents.

Adams said he got the impression that Rich’s recollection was  based, in large part, on a reconstruction of the events from his reading of prior statements and other evidence.

He pointed out that Rich had laid criminal charges against Bromley, but didn’t pursue the matter.

When Rich was incarcerated, he wrote a life story entitled “Shattered Dreams”, in which he spoke only of the assaults of another Roman Catholic priest, Father Leonard Paradis.

In 1999, when he gave his statements to police, Rich was confused about which priest had assaulted him first.

“He has settled a lawsuit with the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation,” Adams said. “There is a clear monetary incentive to now exaggerate any alleged assault by Bromley.”

Bromley was originally charged with 31 sex-related counts, including sexual assault, buggery, indecent assault and gross indecency, involving nine complainants — none of whom are involved in the current civil case.

But he was eventually cleared of all charges — several were withdrawn, he was acquitted of others, and in May 2004 the Court of Appeal overturned a 2002 conviction on a remaining charge of gross indecency.

The decision in Rich’s case could potentially impact other suits against Bromley’s estate and the province, which are before the courts.

Randy Piercey, who represented the province in the case, opted not to comment.

Rich’s lawyer, Jack Lavers, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Organizations: Episcopal Corporation of Grand Falls and Bromley

Geographic location: Whitbourne, Sheshatshiu

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Recent comments

  • george
    December 31, 2013 - 07:29

    I was there... I was a neglected ward.. meaning... I ran away from home because of the turmoil caused by a relation on self destruct because of alcohol abuse...was at a group home... couldn't remain there because I wouldn't stay in school... so.. the only place for me was Whitbourne..I witnessed and experienced the abuse first hand...I personally don't care about money... what I do care about is the fact that so many children had their innocence stripped from their lives...whether sexual abuse or from simply some of the staff squaring children off against each other like a cock fight.. or simply by the physical abuse some of the staff members gave ... everyone turned a blind eye... no one believed any of us after the fact as we were all criminals... I had no criminal record... and I still do not..but still... not credible... the bottom line is..if the government was to admit responsibility for these actions perpetrated by priests and staff members it would have to be monetarily and morally responsible.. emphasis on morally responsible...most of the other children that I knew while I was there are dead... yes dead..suicide... homicide.. and I have lost track after almost 40 years with the remainder... all I would really see as valid as far as compensation is concerned is a public letter of apology from the department of justice... social services and the Newfoundland government as a whole..but , near as I can tell all would rather bury it in the past... and keep people from discussing it ever again...

  • Donna
    June 10, 2012 - 09:55

    I know of a boy who was being abused at this facility, ran away, and died of exposure. Personally, my brother was abused at Mount Cashel, and I was abused at Pleasantville Training School. What was our crime? A bad home life and Social Services having no other place to put us. That 8 months changed my life and is a nightmare I will never recover from. Someone has to be accountable. As they are government run institutions, the government should be responsible for the individuals it exposes children to.

    • linda
      October 11, 2012 - 14:45

      I was wondering what year you we at Pleasantville Donna...i know someone who was there in the 80's and he said the abuse that went on there was awful and that was for the men, i can just imagine what the females went through....

  • Ripleys--------------
    February 04, 2011 - 05:20

    .I'll try my best to refrain myself on this one------ It is so sad that this individual has a criminal background, which may or may not have stemmed, from the perhaps physical / sexual abuse that he supposedly endured at the hands of Father Ron Bromley, I am shocked that anyone in authority would condone, or fail to report such behaviour, but unfortunately it has happened in the past. Some one needs to be held accountable for such unimaginable acts, that is if they occurred. Personally if I knew he was guilty, I would go after the estate. "Money, Money Money " is a small price to pay for emotional torture that haunts for years. I guess it's easier to dismiss someone elses pain. Catholics protest all the time for the unborn child, which is, or isn't acceptable, depending on your beliefs, but very often the vulnerable children already here get forgotten. PS---Let me get this straight -----9, now adults, from different parts of the country, all supposedly stretched or forgot ? the truth-- and no less than 30 charges ---- ---OK then -----next case---

  • John Reid
    February 03, 2011 - 06:08

    Money Money Money. Give me lot's of money to take the pain away. Got lot's of money from the church. Need more from the province. After that who knows where I need more money! Pain almost gone. Just a little more money to take it away.

  • Michelle
    February 02, 2011 - 21:05

    These stories nauseate me to no end. I agree totally that the PROVINCE should not be held responsible for the alleged actions of Father Ron Bromley. It would be interesting to know though, if Rich's settlement with the RC Church , included confidential gag orders to protect Bromley and other alleged offenders such as Father Desmond Mcgrath. . It strikes me as very peculiar indeed, how all of those cases were dismissed, wiithdrawn or whatever. It seems to me ALL those children were considered unreliable and predujiced against , because they had troubled past or continuous dealings with the Justice system. Many of those children suffered horrific abuse in their homes, and then became vulnerable prey in places such as Whitbourne Boys Home, Mount Cashel. There could be any number of reasons why those children fell through the cracks. Maybe some incompetent Judge, decided that an estranged parent ,should get off scott free with their parental duties. This of course then shunned him from the rest of society , who placed way too much emphasis, on whether he/she was wearing brand name clothing, had holes in their sneakers, or actually had a Godly Priest in their family. Yes, there is plenty of relevance here, given the decision by Judge Adams, rested mainly on the economical status of this alleged victim, his inability to recall, and his apparent thirst for money. There are many like Rich who chose to develop amnesia for traumas endured, at the hands of sexual predators. Some of this EVIDENCE would require many sessions of hypnosis to resurface, much of which has been subconsciously hidden. There are many who are sexually abused, who can also relate to the confusion of events. Recalling the exact happenings at any given time, and by whom, would be virtually impossible, especially if there were more than one offender. What evidence would there be after 30 years anyway ?--This was not the high profile Clinton case. Those innocent CHILDREN didn't think to lock away actual evidence . As this article indicates they respected and looked up to the Priests. Some of those who suffered, report escaping the boys home after being physically abused and were then sent to a regular jail, where they were then easily befriended by more prey--the hardened criminals. The rest is history---- they didn't have a prayer (pun intended)-------- These were troubled children, many of them now adults in jail, (and I'm sure many more who were survivors) who reveal stories of even Physical abuse suffered at Whitbourne Boys Home, but yet would much rather this, than the horrendous abuse they suffered at home. Where were the SOCIAL WORKERS in those days?? or even now for that matter ? ---way toooo few of them. We all know about the Homes Directors, Superintendents, the Archbishop Penneys of this world -------who to many a Catholics digust, still perch on the altars of our so called Catholic Church. I have little faith as much of it was destroyed at a very young age, but rest assured if there is a heaven, the more efficient JUDGE is already God himself

  • Don
    February 02, 2011 - 16:55

    I make no comment whatsoever on the outcome of this particular case. Generally speaking however, I have noted that it appears that the wheels of Newfoundland justice grind exceedingly slowly. Days, weeks, months, years and even decades pass by while matters languish unresolved before the Courts. Witnesses memories fade. Accused suspects die or flee the jurisdiction. Evidence may be lost or tampered with. Witnesses die or leave the Province. Public and media interest wanes. The end result is justice delayed and justice denied. To nobody's surprise, as usual, the Government of Newfoundland as a perpetrator or co-defendant, escapes unscathed. Those behind the machinations of Newfoundland politics and Newfoundland justice are linked together and are astoundingly relentless and effective in their efforts to obfuscate, delay, deny, digress, dissent, disagree, disregard, dissemble, distort, appeal and cross appeal in order to get somebody OFF THE HOOK.

  • mr maybe
    February 02, 2011 - 15:01

    maybe im wrong to think this but how can the government not be held responsible, even if it had no control over bromley and he was considered a good man "at that time". at THIS time he is not considered a good man. Yet, a minor can commit a crime and not be charged until after he is an adult and be charged as an adult. even though 'at that time' this youth made a poor choice he was in fact a YOUTH!!! 6 in one half a dozen in the other. it's a sad day