Church says family members not included in victim laws

Cardinal George Pell (CNS/Erik Anderson, Reuters)

Lawyers have argued that a deceased choirboy’s father should not be permitted to sue the Church in response to a civil damages claim lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court involving Cardinal George Pell. Source: ABC News.

A man is suing the Melbourne Archdiocese and Cardinal Pell for damages, claiming he suffered nervous shock after learning of allegations Cardinal Pell sexually assaulted his son when he was a choirboy at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996.

In 2018, Cardinal Pell was found guilty of the assault, but the High Court unanimously quashed the conviction in 2020. The Cardinal has always maintained his innocence.

In a preliminary hearing in the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday, the archdiocese indicated it wanted to rely on what is known as the "Ellis defence" to be excused from the case.

The Ellis defence emerged out of a 2007 NSW Court of Appeal judgment that prevented an abuse survivor from suing the Church because it was not a legal entity. In 2018, the Victorian Parliament passed legislation that required unincorporated associations like the Church to nominate an entity that is capable of being sued.

But lawyers for the archdiocese argued that legislation did not apply in this case because the father of the choirboy was not the primary victim of the alleged abuse.

The father’s barrister, Julian Burnside QC, disagreed, arguing the 2018 legislation applied to both primary victims and their families.

Judge Michael McDonald has reserved his decision on whether to excuse the archdiocese. If it is excused, Cardinal Pell would remain a defendant.


Catholic Church to rely on ‘Ellis defence’ in civil damages claim involving Cardinal George Pell (By Danny Morgan, ABC News)


Catholic Church says family members not included in victim laws (By David Estcourt, The Age

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