Peter Chalk Victims May Reopen Compensation Case

By Rory Callinan, Rick Wallace
The Australian
September 23, 2010

[with video]

VICTIMS of an alleged pedophile priest who has settled in Japan could still have a strong case for extra compensation.

That would be so even if they have received private payouts from the Catholic Church.

The advice on reopening claims, from lawyer Jason Parkinson, came as a support group and victims of former priest Peter Chalk called on any investigation to include allegations of a church cover-up.

Chalk, who has changed his name to Shiraishi and claims citizenship in Japan, has said he would not return to Australia to face allegations he abused children while working as a priest in Melbourne's northern suburbs in the 1970s.

His Missionaries of the Sacred Heart order covered up the alleged abuse, did not remove him from the order and failed to bring him back to Australia.

In the 1990s, four of his victims received payouts and apologies from the Melbourne diocese.

Mr Parkinson, whose Canberra firm Porters Lawyers is handling up to 100 cases of child abuse, said if the paid-out victims had been misled then there could be an issue of more compensation.

"If they have said to each individual, 'We haven't had any other complaints about him', and the reality is that they did have complaints, the victims have been induced to enter into an agreement because they weren't given the full story -- then they are able to reopen them," he said.

"But you would need to treat each case on its merits."

Peter Murphy, who was the first to blow the whistle on Chalk back in the 1980s and who has given police a statement, said investigating any church cover-up was "important, big-time". "That's the whole reason why I went to the police, because they did nothing," he said.

Another victim spoke to The Australian yesterday, confirming he had given police a statement in 1994. He said his abuse occurred when he was only eight or nine years old.

Broken Rites, the support group that exposes pedophile priests and lobbies for victims, called for the investigation to be broadened.

Bernard Barrett, a researcher for Broken Rites, said church officials in Australia had protected Chalk for years.

"Concealing a crime is itself a criminal offence. Australian police should investigate to see if there has been a cover-up."

Victoria Police have said they can not comment on ongoing investigations.

MSC Provincial Father Tim Brennan has admitted "matters could have been handled in a more appropriate way".

Chalk has denied the abuse but admitted to some "crude behaviour" as a parish priest.


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