High Court Ruling Lifts Barrier to Sexual Abuse Action

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Survivors of sexual abuse by pedophile Catholic priests who have since died have new hope of getting compensation following a landmark High Court decision.

The High Court’s ruling means the Catholic Church can no longer use the death of a priest to either stop abuse trials from proceeding or reduce the amount of settlements. 

“This is a big win for abuse survivors,” says Manny Carbone of Carbone Lawyers. “This decision means that just because a perpetrator is dead, an institution like the Catholic Church cannot hide behind that to seek a permanent stay.”

The case was bought by a survivor, known as GLJ, who alleges she was abused as a 14-year-old by Lismore priest Father Clarence Anderson. Anderson died in 1996, well before GLJ’s complaint. The Lismore Catholic diocese argued it was put in an unfair position, unable to properly investigate the allegation or mount a defence, and the case for compensation had been permanently stayed. 

GLJ’s lawyers say the church had held evidence about his abuse of other children from 1971, the year of his defrocking, and had ample opportunity to investigate his conduct more broadly in the 25 years prior to his death. Instead, it did nothing, her lawyers say.

The High Court ruled in GLJ’s favour, saying permanent stays should only be granted in “exceptional” cases.

Manny Carbone says any victim of institutional abuse who has been thwarted in their claim for compensation in the past because of this legal tactic by the church should seek legal advice about bringing their claim before the court again.

“This decision lifts a significant barrier for many survivors who thought they had no chance of ever seeking justice. We encourage anyone in this situation to get in touch with us.”

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