Court enables child sexual abuse victims to sue Catholic Church

Mondaq / Sydney Criminal Lawyers

October 5, 2020

By Sonia Hickey

The Supreme Court of Victoria has overturned a deed of release signed by a victim of child sexual abuse, who was paid $32,500 by the Catholic Church in 1996 in exchange for his silence and no further legal action.

The landmark decision will enable two things: For this particular victim to now sue the church for damages, and secondly, pave the way for other victims to do so.

It’s estimated that there are about 500 victims who signed similar deeds of release, often for small financial payouts, under the Catholic Church’s controversial “Melbourne Response.

Overturning ‘paltry’ settlements for victims
It was set up in 1996 by George Pell, who had his conviction for child sexual offences overturned in an appeal to the High Court in April this year. He has since left Australia and returned to the Vatican.

The fund was specifically set up by the church to compensate victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic Priests has long been criticised for handing out paltry payments which do not in any way reflect the severity of the life-long damage inflicted on survivors, nor the Church’s ability to be financially accountable to victims, given that the value of the Church’s assets in Australia alone are estimated at around $30 billion.

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