Sex abuse costing Aust. diocese more than $19 million

Out-of-court settlements for victims of sex abuse are predicted to total more than $NZ19 million in the Australian diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, where a lawyer says the concentration of claims is far higher than in any other diocese in the country.

The diocese, in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, has settled at least 78 claims, with about 25 outstanding.

These settlements are for victims of abuse alleged to have taken place between the 1960s and 1990s, involving at least 10 alleged perpetrators, including priests and teachers.

Many relate to one priest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and they include what is thought to be the largest such settlement in Australia, of more than $NZ2.5 million.

Lawyer John Ellis, whose firm of David Beggs and Associates has negotiated many of the settlements, said the culture of alleged abuse was likely to be worse in Maitland-Newcastle than in other Catholic dioceses in Australia.

“Maitland-Newcastle had a large number of serial offenders, some of whom operated over many years, even decades,” Mr Ellis said. “The other striking feature is the strong evidence of senior Church officials knowing about the abuse and doing nothing to prevent it.”

There is no suggestion that current diocesan officials knew about the historical abuse, although police are investigating “alleged cover-ups” of assaults by one priest.

Mr Ellis said the diocese has a dark history. “What has happened in that diocese over the period, and the claims that we’ve dealt with go over several decades, is just an extraordinary.

“Concentration of claims over that period of time is quite in excess of anything we’re aware of in any other diocese,” he said.

The cost of settlements has taken its toll on the diocese, whose insurers are understood not to cover any claim where it can be shown the Church had prior knowledge of the alleged abuse.

Bishop Bill Wright of Maitland-Newcastle has said the costs “were a factor” in a 2010 decision to sell a number of aged-care facilities operated by the diocese across the Hunter region.


The Australian


Image: OZinOH

Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,