Kelso Lawyers responds to the Catholic Church’s aggressive new legal tactics in child sexual abuse claims

men in a church

 Based on the information, interviews, complaints and quotes published by the Guardian in November 2022

In recent months, the Catholic Church in Australia has taken on an increasingly aggressive approach to alleged victims of child sexual abuse where the offending priest has died. 

The Guardian recently revealed that the Catholic Church has been pressuring survivors to accept “paltry” compensation offers or risk having their cases fail in court. This follows a ruling from the NSW Court of Appeal, where it was found that a fair trial was not possible because the alleged offender, Father Clarence Anderson, had died.

He was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. 

The decision was made in spite of clear evidence that the Catholic Church knew Anderson had abused boys for years. Rather than reporting Anderson to the police at the time, the church moved him from parish to parish, where he continued to prey on children.

This turn of events has “emboldened” the Catholic Church to treat survivors unfairly. 

Kelso Lawyers submitted a complaint to NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman, highlighting a string of court decisions that have permanently blocked claims against the Catholic and Anglican Churches. All of these decisions have been related to cases where the perpetrator and other key figures involved have died. 

In almost all of these cases, our clients could not even have their stories heard in court

“The court dismisses the proceedings before the victim even has the chance to put their case in court and fight for justice,” we told Mr Speakman. 

“They are being left without a voice, denied their day in court.”

Our own Luke Garaty spoke to the Guardian on the issue, as he has witnessed the Catholic Church’s aggressive new approach first-hand. 

“We have received offers of settlement in the last few months for several hundred thousand dollars below what was offered to other victims of abuse by the same offenders in the same institutions prior to the permanent stay decisions,” Luke told the Guardian.

“Secondary to that (and I suppose a natural consequence of that) is the various Catholic orders are now refusing to pay any compensation or making extremely paltry offers, in relation to a) dead offenders who they previously accepted liability for and paid respectful compensation in relation to; and b) in relation to dead offenders they were paying out compensation to even before the limitation period was removed.”

The Catholic Church has not responded to our comment. However, in June, the Church claimed its strategy was to “continue to be guided by the facts and circumstances of each case”. 

We will not stand idly by and allow the Catholic Church to belittle and re-traumatise our clients 

The Catholic Church cannot and will not stand in the way of justice for survivors of child sexual abuse. Kelso Lawyers is an advocate for change and will continue to fight for survivors to achieve the justice they so dearly deserve. 

More on this to come. 

Get the justice you deserve with Kelso Lawyers. We want to hear your story. Call (02) 4907 4200 or complete the online form before you accept payment from the National Redress Scheme.

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