‘Ellis defence’ scrapped as Victorian law change opens church up to abuse legal action

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

May 25, 2018

By Danny Tran and Matt Neal

It was only years later, long after he had been admitted to practise as a lawyer, that John Ellis decided to exercise his legal right to sue the Catholic Church.

As a altar boy, he’d been abused by a paedophile priest. Now an adult, he sought damages.

But Mr Ellis ultimately failed because the church successfully argued it did not legally exist as its assets were held in a trust, and that was protected from legal action.

And in a galling circumstance of fate, Mr Ellis’s name was unwittingly shackled to the method the church had used to avoid the legal action. Since then it’s been known as “the Ellis defence”.

But last night, more than 16 years after the fact, the Victorian Government passed a law closing the legal loophole.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.