A Roman Catholic diocese is liable to pay compensation for alleged beatings inflicted by a nun and sexual abuse perpetrated by a priest on a young girl (JGE) , the court of appeal has ruled.

The decision, by a majority of two judges to one, will have far-reaching implications for the responsibilities of all employers, significantly widening the scope of their "vicarious liability" for the actions of employees.

JGE's solicitor, Tracey Emmott of Emmott Snell (a member of ACAL), welcomed the ruling. "This is absolutely the right decision," she said. "The relationship between a bishop and a priest of a Roman Catholic diocese has many of the hallmarks of an employment relationship, and therefore it is right and proper that the church should be held legally accountable for abuse by its priests.

"The wider implications of this judgment are significant, such that it is now settled that there no longer has to be a formal employment relationship for legal responsibility to attach to one party for the wrongdoings of another ... It is hoped that this ruling will now be accepted, and that victims of abuse by Catholic priests can be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."

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