Louise O’Keeffe was repeatedly sexually abused by her school principal during the 1970s. When these events were reported to the police in 1996, the complete police investigation revealed that the principal had sexually abused twenty-one former students during a ten-year period. In total, the principal was charged with 386 criminal offences of sexual abuse. O’Keeffe brought a civil action against the Minister for Education and the Attorney General of Ireland, claiming that the State had vicarious liability for the personal injury she suffered as a result of the abuse in the public school. The High Court ruled that the state did not have vicarious liability for its employee’s actions, and the Supreme Court dismissed O’Keeffe’s appeal. In January 2014, O’Keeffe brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging violations of Article 3 (torture or inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 13, alleging that she did not have an effective domestic remedy. The European Court of Human Rights held the following: (1) the Irish State failed to meet its positive obligation, in violation of Article 3; (2) there was no violation of the procedural obligations under Article 3 since an effective official investigation into the ill-treatment of the applicant had been carried out in 1995 once the a complaint was made by another former pupil to the police; (3) the applicant did not have an adequate remedy available to her regarding her Article 3 complaints, in violation of Article 13; and (4) the applicant was awarded 85,000 euros for the costs and expenses of the proceedings. As a result of this case, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny gave an apology to O’Keeffe, and, in August 2014, the Irish government submitted an Action Plan to the Council of Europe setting out the measures that have been taken since this ECtHR decision.
O’Keeffe v. Ireland
European Court of Human Rights