Lawyer in 'no doubt' Cardinal knew abuse details

Lawyer gave evidence

Cardinal George Pell knew a law firm defending the Church in an abuse claim would refuse to mediate, challenge the victim's claims, and oppose it on time-limit grounds, an inquiry has heard, reports SkyNews.

Lawyer Paul McCann, a partner at Corrs Chambers Wesgarth, was giving evidence to the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse about his firm's actions for the Church and the then-Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Pell, in 2004.

His firm was instructed to defend the case brought by abuse victim John Ellis.

Mr Ellis was abused for five years by Fr Aidan Duggan at Bass Hill in Sydney, starting in 1974, when Mr Ellis was 13.

Documents shown to the Royal Commission showed Mr McCann advised the Church would 'vigorously defend' the case on the grounds of a time limitation applying to when an action could be commenced.

Mr McCann told the inquiry he 'didn't have any doubt' that Cardinal Pell was being kept up to date with details of the case.

Commissioner Peter McLellan asked Mr McCann whether, in general, he would use a time limit defence if a client did not dispute that damage had been done.

'If a client comes to you and says to you that they accept that the acts causing the damage occurred, would you still give advice to vigorously defend the limitation application?' Justice McLellan asked.

Mr McCann replied: 'Your honour, if they were seeking legal advice from me, yes I would.'

From the Truth Justice and Healing Council: 

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commenced its 9th public hearing in Adelaide on Monday where it is examining the responses by the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide and the South Australian Police to allegations of child sexual abuse against children with disabilities at St Ann' Special School in Adelaide.

At the same time, the Royal Commission's hearing into the case of John Ellis continues in Sydney.

Presiding Commissioner of the St Ann's case, Justice Jennifer Coate, warned the evidence would be distressing.

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, Sophie David outlined the details of the case of convicted paedophile Brian Perkins, who was a bus driver at St Ann's at the time of the abuse. He also volunteered in the woodwork class and provided respite care to parents on weekends.

He worked at the schoold from 1986 to 1991. In 1991 pornographic photographs depicting the abuse of children from St Ann's were discovered in Perkins' home. In 2003 Perkins was convicted of, and pleaded guilty to, five sexual offences against three St Ann's students.

He died in 2009 while serving a 10 year prison sentence. The Commission heard from former St Ann's student, LH who was abused by Perkins between the ages of 11 and 15. His evidence was graphic and disturbing and went to the impact of the abuse. The Royal Commission also heard from the mothers of two other boys who were abused by Perkins.

LK, the mother of LB revealed details of the terrible impact of the abuse on her son, and of her experience of the drawn out process once evidence emerged of Perkins crimes. Helen Gitsham, mother of David, also gave evidence of the impact of abuse on her son and on their family.

Her extensive evidence detailed the difficulties she and her husband experienced with the police, the school and the Church, as they sought justice for their son.

The second day of the hearing heard evidence from the South Australian police. Questions to Detective Sergeant Leonid Mosheev sought to establish a deeper understanding of police procedures in place in 1991 in relation to the investigation of sexual assault and to the treatment of children and people with a disability.

Perkins was arrested in 1993 and refused bail but, on appeal, he was released on bail and absconded to Queensland. Further questions sought to establish the course of the police investigation, the basis for charges laid against Perkins and decisions taken by the police and DPP in relation to criminal action taken against Perkins in relation to offences against St Ann's students.

Perkins was eventually extradited, and convicted in 2003. The hearing continues.

The hearing into the John Ellis case continues in Sydney this week.

Monsignor Brian Rayner spent all day Monday and until just prior to lunch on Tuesday initially giving evidence about his role in Mr Ellis' Towards Healing process and then being cross-examined.

The Monsignor gave detailed evidence about the decision making process involved in the Ellis Towards Healing process, including the degree of discretion he had in making any significant decisions in the case. Monsignor Rayner also gave evidence about his role in a prospective financial settlement with Mr Ellis.

Just before lunch Paul McCann, senior partner at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Sydney in the Ellis took the stand. Mr McCann gave evidence about advice he gave and the instructions he received from the Archdiocese regarding the Ellis litigation.

He was also questioned about his firm's understanding as to whether Mr Ellis had actually been abused and if that knowledge would have influenced the advice his firm had given the Archdiocese.

In evidence given by Mr McCann about the four-day cross examination Mr Ellis went through Mr McCann conceded that parts of the examination were irrelevant and hurtful.

During Mr McCann's evidence Justice McClellan flagged a number of overseas law reform developments around the issues of the legal responsibilities of the church in relation to child sexual abuse committed by its clergy.

Justice McClellan asked him about possible law reform in two areas including whether the church should provide a legal entity for a plaintiff to sue and whether the Church, by reason of its structure and the relationship it creates with those who come to it should owe a non-delegable duty of care to someone who suffers abuse at the hands of Church personnel.

The hearing was adjourned until Thursday.

For more information on the Truth Justice and Healing Council go to: www.tjhcouncil.org.au
For information on the Royal Commission go to: www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

FULL COVERAGE

'No doubt' Pell knew abuse details (SkyNews)

George Pell was calling all the shots (SMH)

Altar boy sex abuse case backed by Cardinal George Pell (The Daily Telegraph)

Royal Commission John Ellis Case (TJHC Media Release)

Royal Commission St Ann's Special School (TJHC Media Release)

RELATED COVERAGE

Detective 'horrified' to discover St Ann's special school sex abuse investigation shut down, inquiry hears (ABC/Yahoo7)

SA police boss tells of abuse inquiry fury (AAP/Yahoo7)

Priest called abuse the 'Lord's work' (SkyNews)

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