Priest Sex Abuse a Clamour for Cash - Lawyer

By Dean Calcott
New Zealand
October 7, 2003


The lawyer for a former brother charged with sexual offending at St John of God Marylands says the case appears to have become a "clamour for cash" and "scramble for payment".

A depositions hearing for Bernard Kevin McGrath, 56, who faces 33 charges relating to alleged sexual abuse of boys aged under 16 at the school, was due to begin yesterday.

However, Nigel Hampton, QC, said issues surrounding the case made a longer depositions hearing necessary.

The St John of God order, which has paid compensation to many former pupils at the Christchurch school, appeared to have a policy of "you say it and we pay it", Mr Hampton said.

He said the matters had to be seen in the context of a "snowball" effect made up of vested interests and the readiness of the order to pay up, plus the intense media interest in the case, he said.

All of that led to the case having to go to a full depositions hearing, he said.

Justice of the Peace Colin Fisk remanded McGrath on bail to appear again in February for a two-week depositions hearing.

His bail conditions included that he live where directed, non-association with people under 16, non-association with former students at Marylands, or any of the complainants, and that he surrender his passport.

A condition McGrath report to police three times a week was withdrawn.

Mr Hampton told the court more time was needed for the hearing, in which some of the complainants might give evidence.

McGrath, who grew up in Christchurch, taught at Marylands in the 1970s, leaving in the late 1970s to work in a residential school in Sydney.

The school in Halswell catered for boys with learning or intellectual disabilities and closed in 1984.

St John of God has been negotiating compensation settlements with some earlier complainants.

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