(Australia) Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2001

Man sues teacher and Catholic Church over 1984 strapping
By Ellen Connolly

A man is suing a teacher and the Catholic Church, claiming the corporal punishment he received as a student 17 years ago has left him with a permanent hand injury and caused him loss of income.

Mr Paul Martin Hogan, 30, told the NSW Supreme Court yesterday that he had received the strap twice in one day from the master of discipline of St John's College Lakemba, Mr Denis Fricot, and that as a result suffered what his barrister called "regional pain syndrome".

He had trouble writing, could not enjoy life to the full, was restricted in his activities, had to use a left-handed keyboard, worked only part-time, and suffered frequent headaches and pain in his hand.

Mr Hogan, who was 13 at the time he was caned, is seeking damages from Mr Fricot and the trustees of the Catholic Church for the pain and suffering he continues to endure, for loss of income and for his medical expenses.

In his opening address to the jury, his barrister, Mr William Kearns, SC, submitted that Mr Fricot and the school were guilty of an assault and of negligence, that they had breached their duty of care, and that the punishment was "unnecessary and excessive".

If not for the injury, his client would have obtained a senior management position with a construction company, he said.

The incident at the centre of the case happened on March 16, 1984. Mr Hogan had reported to Mr Fricot's office after "a perceived uniform violation" the day before, Mr Kearns said.

Mr Hogan, who now lives in the eastern suburbs, said that when he went to the office he was given no explanation for the punishment and told: "Get your hands out, Hogan."

He was given the strap three times, which he said left his hand and part of his wrist bruised and swollen.

He said Mr Fricot told him: "Don't wear those grubby things again."

By lunchtime, his hand and wrist were bruised and swollen. He was sitting with his friends who were talking about "how Fricot was belting people and asking questions later".

Three of the boys started to chant: "Kick Fricot out."

Mr Hogan had turned to his friend and said: "Look what the black thing's done to me," and showed him his purple hand.

A teacher ordered some of the boys to Mr Fricot's office. When Mr Hogan tried to defend one of them, Mr Fricot had told him to go to his office as well, where he was given the strap.

"I knew I was going to get the strap. I said [to him]: 'Look at my hand.' It was bruised and sore."

Mr Hogan had been hit five times. As he left, Mr Fricot had told him: "I don't like you Hogan. We are going to see about transferring you."

When he got home, his father took him to a doctor, who bandaged his hand. In the months following, he had trouble using a knife and fork, tried to write left-handed, had to give up leatherwork at school and suffered pins and needles in his hand.

The hearing continues.

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