Church’s appeal loss paves way for abuse survivors to sue

Warragul priest Daniel Hourigan

Title: Church’s appeal loss paves way for abuse survivors to sue
Authors: Adam Cooper and Tom Cowie
Publisher: The Age
Date: 18DEC2020

The Catholic Church has failed in its appeal over a compensation payout to a sexual abuse survivor, and now faces the prospect of being sued by hundreds of other victims who received meagre payments in exchange for their silence.

A former altar boy known as WCB was in 1996 paid $32,500 by the church after he was repeatedly abused by Warragul priest Daniel Hourigan between 1977 and 1980.

WCB’s lawyers say he felt insulted by that payment given the horrific abuse he suffered from when he was 12 and the effect it had on his life.

The Supreme Court this year overturned the deed of release, which allowed the Gippsland man to sue the church for damages.

The church appealed against that decision but the Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed the challenge and found in WCB’s favour. Appeals judges David Beach, Stephen Kaye and Robert Osborn found the 1996 payment was a “very modest one” and not commensurate “for the wrong done to [WCB]”.

“In those circumstances, and notwithstanding the difficulties created by the elapse of time, it is, in our view, very plainly just and reasonable to set aside the deed,” the appeals judges wrote.

“Indeed, it would positively be unjust and unreasonable not to do so.”

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