First class action against Church looms under new laws

St Patrick’s College in now a campus of Catholic College Sale (Wikimedia)

The Sale Diocese could become embroiled in a landmark class action to be brought by alleged victims of child abuse. Source: Gippsland Times.

The proposed action relates to alleged historical child sex and physical abuse offences at St Patrick’s College in Sale, many of which are said to have occurred in the 1970s when the school housed boarders.

Two St Patrick’s cases have already been prosecuted in the criminal system, with another case against a Marist Brother, alleging multiple victims, set to go to trial later this year.

Another criminal case was unable to proceed after the accused lay teacher died.

The class action, which will allege a failure in duty of care, will attract state and national attention, as this is expected to be the first class action lawsuit in Victoria against the Church under impending changes to state government legislation, which are anticipated to pass in the Legislative Council within weeks.

Under the new laws, both individuals and class action parties will be able to sue the Church’s highly valuable property trusts, and other such structures, that were previously “untouchable”.

With at least 28 known reports of sexually and physically abused victims from St Patrick’s, the class action is now at the “public notification” stage, to encourage other victims to come forward.

The public awareness campaign is one of the final steps to lodging the class action lawsuit in the Victorian Supreme Court.

Class action leader and lead plaintiff, “Michael”, believes there could be many other victims who have remained silent.

“They need to know it is now safe to come forward, even if their initial enquiries are anonymous,” he said.

As this is expected to the first class action lawsuit to go before the Victorian Supreme Court under the proposed new legislation, Michael said his team was “disciplined and taking a highly detailed and methodical approach to every set of the process, to ensure winning this precedent-setting case”.

FULL STORY

Church class action (Gippsland Times)

RELATED COVERAGE

Police investigate claims witness was pressured not to testify in sex abuse cover-up case (The Advertiser

Catholic priest accused of abusing seven children at Shenton Park in Perth about 40 years ago (Perth Now

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