Paedophile priest's victim to get payout over $1m, opening door for more claims

| 28.09,19. 03:39 AM |

Paedophile priest's victim to get payout over $1m, opening door for more claims

Photo: Gerald Ridsdale is believed to have abused hundreds of children. (Supplied)

The Catholic Church is expected to pay more than $1 million in compensation after reaching a settlement with a man who was raped by Australia's worst paedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale.

The man, known only as JCB, was nine years old when he was raped by Ridsdale in 1982 in the small Victorian town of Mortlake.

The settlement comes after the Catholic Church admitted in court documents it knew of a complaint against Ridsdale as far back as 1975, when he was a parish priest near Ballarat.

Lawyers alleged that the church breached its duty of care to children, including JCB, by moving Ridsdale from parish to parish after that date.

His lawyer, Judy Courtin, confirmed the Catholic Church on Thursday reached a settlement with her client in a civil case before the Victorian Supreme Court.

The settlement, which Ms Courtin described as a "landmark", could open the door for hundreds of compensation claims to be filed by other victims of Ridsdale.

"What is really significant is that finally, finally, we have proper accountability and some form of proper justice for our client," Ms Courtin said.

"With all of these changes, the bravery of all victims and survivors and their families, we've got this sort of turning of the tables.

"Victims have been silenced and retraumatised and re-abused for decades now.

"The tables are turning and the power base is gradually shifting, which is a very good thing."

Ms Courtin said she knew of more than 150 cases against the church before the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Ridsdale, who is serving a 29-year sentence in Ararat's Hopkins Correctional Centre for child sex offences, is believed to have sexually abused hundreds of children over 40 years.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was told in 2016 that the Catholic Church knew about numerous complaints against Ridsdale, who was moved to other parishes after complaints were made.

Lawyers for JCB had tried to persuade the church to admit liability on the basis of admissions it made to the royal commission.

JCB sued the Archbishop of Ballarat, Paul Bird, in place of his deceased predecessors James O'Collins and Ronald Mulkearns, as well as the Catholic diocese of Ballarat and the Roman Catholic Trust Corporation.

For years the church has come under intense criticism for its handling of compensation claims.

The so-called Ellis defence was used to prevent abuse survivors from suing the church, after it successfully argued it did not legally exist as its assets were held in a trust that was protected from legal action.

The defence was a legal road block that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse recommended be scrapped.

The Victorian Parliament last year passed legislation closing the legal loophole and requiring unincorporated organisations to nominate a defendant with assets, capable of being sued.

Time limits also no longer restrict action being taken in historical sexual abuse cases.


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