George Pell's legal woes far from over: Cardinal will still have to face a surge of civil cases from alleged sexual abuse victims after being cleared of molesting two choirboys

By Nic White
Daily Mail Australia
April 7, 2020

Child sexual abuse convictions against Cardinal George Pell (pictured leaving jail) were overturned by the High Court on Tuesday, ending a three-year legal battle and setting him free

Convicted pedophile Christian Brother Edward 'Ted' Dowlan is in prison after abusing 20 boys in the 1970s and 1980s as a teacher at schools across Melbourne and western Victoria. The civil case launched by one of his victims claims Cardinal George Pell knew of Dowlan's criminal ways but did nothing to remove him from his teaching position or end the abuse

Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli (pictured left) is named in the civil suit alongside Cardinal Pell and Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird (pictured right)

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Cardinal George Pell's legal woes are far from over even after he walked from prison a free man with his child sexual abuse convictions overturned.

Australia's most senior Catholic faces at least 10 potential civil lawsuits claiming he either molested other boys or covered up abuse by fellow priests.

One claim was filed in the Victorian Supreme Court last year by a victim of notorious paedophile priest Edward 'Ted' Dowlan, alleging Pell did nothing to protect him.

Melbourne lawyer Vivian Waller is handling eight other civil cases against the 78-year-old clergyman and more are expected from other complainants.

Pell was jailed for six years in 2018 for sexually abusing two choirboys in Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.

Two of three Court of Appeals justices upheld the jury's verdict last year but a full bench of the High Court unanimously quashed the convictions.

Many of the alleged victims were waiting until after the High Court appeal before launching their own cases, so a flurry of suits could hit courts within days.

They include the father of one of the two choirboys Pell was convicted of molesting in St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996, before it was overturned by the High Court on Tuesday.

The father, who can't be named, of the choirboy codenamed R blames Pell for his son spiralling into a drug addiction that led to his heroin overdose death in 2014.

The sole already-filed case concerns a man who was abused during Dowlan's time at East Melbourne's Cathedral College between 1982 and 1988.

He claims Pell knew of Dowlan's criminal ways and was complicit in moving him between schools across the state, allowing the abuse to continue. 

Dowlan admitted abusing boys since 1971 when he was among a ring of pedophiles at St Alipius Primary School in Ballarat that included predators Robert Best and Gerald Ridsdale. 

Pell was the episcopal vicar for education in the Ballarat diocese from 1973 to 1984.

Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird, Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli and the Catholic Education Commission, are also named in the suit. 

Lawyer Michael Magazanik, representing the applicant victim, told the court last year there was no question the abuse occurred and his client had been compensated for it previously.

The diocese of Ballarat or the Catholic Church's insurers would most likely bear the brunt of the lawsuits as under new laws the church entity that is able to fund the legal proceedings is named as the primary defendant.

Pell and any other parties could still be named on the lawsuit in addition.

The newly-released cardinal has little money to mount a defence or pay damages. His criminal defence was paid for by wealthy benefactors.


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