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Legal payout brings hope for other victims of paedophile priest

Kevin O’Donnell Paedophile Priest

Title: Legal payout brings hope for other victims of paedophile priest
Author: Adam Cooper
Publisher: The Age
Date: 26JUL2021

As the first of Kevin O’Donnell’s victims to report the paedophile priest to police, he paved a courageous path for other abuse survivors to follow.

Now, he hopes the $1.375 million he will receive from the Catholic Church will stand as a landmark settlement that assists O’Donnell’s other victims who are seeking compensation.

“I never let go of the bone. I just kept fighting it. I thought, ‘this is not right’,” said BTZ, as he is known in legal files.

“The Melbourne archdiocese has known I was a victim for 25 years and it’s only in the past couple of months they were forced into mediation to start the conversation about how much money they had to pay me.”

It is 50 years since BTZ was groomed and abused as an 11-year-old boy in Hastings by his parish priest. O’Donnell’s attacks continued until 1976 and included sexual assaults at the priest’s holiday house and on trips away.

By the mid-1990s, when BTZ was experiencing regular flashbacks, nightmares and what was later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress, he contacted support network Broken Rites and police.

Detectives quickly found 11 other victims of O’Donnell. He pleaded guilty and was jailed. He died in 1997, months after his release.

But although O’Donnell is one of Australia’s most notorious paedophiles and the church acknowledged his crimes, the archdiocese made BTZ fight for compensation, which “gutted” him and he spiralled into depression. He went through two rounds with the Melbourne Response scheme and had his case before the Supreme Court over the past 15 months until last week, when the church and its lawyers settled just before a trial was to start.

BTZ’s lawyer, Judy Courtin, said the archdiocese’s acceptance of its liability was significant for her client and 11 others abused by O’Donnell now suing the church, including a woman assaulted in the 1940s.

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