Newcastle-Maitland Catholic Church sexual abuse case settles out of court

By Mazoe Ford
ABC News
November 22, 2016

The estate of late Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Leo Clarke was being sued for damages.

The Catholic Church has reached a confidential settlement with two sisters who say they were sexually abused by a priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in the 1970s and 80s.

The sisters, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said they were abused by Father Dennis McAlinden, who died in a nursing home in 2005 without ever being charged.

They were suing both the estate of the late Bishop Leo Clarke, who was in charge at the time of the alleged crimes, as well as the trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

But yesterday Justice Peter Garling urged the parties to settle the case outside court so the women would not "be unnecessarily put in distress".

This morning the Catholic Church and the women returned to the Supreme Court and told the judge a confidential settlement had been agreed to.

Outside court, the women's lawyer Jason Parkinson said his clients were very relieved.

"They were prepared to get in the witness box and tell their harrowing story of being abused by Father McAlinden," he said.

"They were putting their faith in the court system and they are very relieved that his Honour sent the parties back to finalise their settlements and are very pleased that settlements were made.

"They now wish to move on with their lives ... sadly we weren't able to help the children, but we have been able to help the adults."

The diocese's barrister, Lachland Gyles SC, read a statement to the court saying the church was grateful that an agreement had been reached.

"[The church] is hopeful this settlement will assist these ladies to put this case and the sad events behind them," he said.

"And to move forward in a positive way to seek to repair the damage which was done to them so many years ago — we wish them well in that."

Mr Gyles asked that the settlement amount be sealed in an envelope that could only be opened by a judge.

A 2013 special commission of inquiry found that McAlinden had a history of sexually abusing children over five decades, and may have abused more than 100 victims.


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