Catholic Church says family members not included in victim laws

George Pell Ellis Defence

: Catholic Church says family members not included in victim laws
Author: David Estcourt with Adam Cooper
Publisher: The Age
Date: 04AUG2022

Lawyers acting for the Catholic Church have argued that legislation passed to close a legal loophole that helped the church avoid liability for sex abuse victims does not apply to the father of a former choirboy whom prosecutors had alleged was sexually abused by George Pell.

But Julian Burnside, QC, acting for the father, told Supreme Court Justice Michael McDonald on Thursday that if the court found the legislation did not apply to family members, it would undermine the purpose of the law.

Pell was found guilty in 2018 by a County Court jury of abusing two teenage choirboys in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral after a Sunday Mass in December 1996. Those convictions were quashed by the High Court in 2020 and Pell was released from prison after more than a year in custody.

One of the choirboys died in his 30s in 2014 from an accidental heroin overdose, having never made a complaint against Pell. The deceased man’s father, referred to in court under the pseudonym RWQ, lodged a civil case in the Supreme Court last month.

Chris Caleo, QC, acting for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, said the Legal Identity of Defendants Act passed in 2018 made the church liable for financial compensation for damage inflicted only on victims because it was designed to apply to survivors of abuse and not their families.

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