Catholic Church’s Offer to Stop Child Sexual Abuse Case Rejected by New South Wales Supreme Court | New South Wales

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The Catholic Church has tried to prevent a survivor from suing her for abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of a north New South Wales parish priest, despite her own records showing that she knew the man was a pedophile but did nothing other than move him out of the ward. to the parish.

Friday the New South Wales Supreme Court dismissed the Catholic Church’s request for a permanent stay of proceedings brought by a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted in 1968, when she was 14, by Father Clarence Anderson, a priest in the Diocese of Lismore .

The church had argued that there could not be a fair trial and that the case was “unjustifiably oppressive” due to the passage of time and the death of the priest and clergy familiar with the matter.

But church documents obtained by the woman’s attorneys, Ken Cush & Associates, show that Anderson’s superiors observed as early as 1965 that he had a “sexual interest in children,” which he was prepared to act on. .

The church also kept records of complaints from parents of other boys being abused by Anderson.

Other documents showed that he was temporarily suspended from his office and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment, which he did not persist.

The court heard that the church had allowed Anderson to continue to have access to the children, moving him from ward to ward when complaints were made.

In early 1971, the Archbishop of the Brisbane office was directly warned against Anderson by Kyogle’s pastor, Bishop Ryan. Ryan said he first saw Anderson sexually assault a boy.

“These conclusions, I came to from the observation of him manipulating boys in the schoolyard and in his car,” he wrote to the archbishop’s office. “From the upper floor of the parsonage, I saw him once with a boy lying under him over the hood of the car, performing what appeared to be sexual movements on the boy.”

Ryan told the Archbishop he was also approached by a father who said the priest abused his son and six other people. Anderson was removed from his post by Ryan, only for the Bishop to find out that he had been “appointed to a parish further up the coast, Macksville in fact, with orders to go to Sydney every month for a visit. processing “.

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The court ruled that the documentary evidence “amply demonstrates that Father Anderson’s misconduct was well known to his superiors, long before the event invoked by the plaintiff.”

The woman’s lawyers also presented evidence of five other children who said they were abused by Anderson, including four children from Macksville.

One of them recalled that Anderson was known as “the priest of surfing”. Some of the boys were coached by Anderson. Others were wiped out by him while shooting or surfing.

Judge Stephen Campbell concluded that the church had not done enough to prove the “exceptional” circumstances required for a permanent stay of proceedings.

“A trial on the issues in this case would not be a mere masquerade calculated to bring the administration of justice into disrepute among right-thinking people,” he said.

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Campbell also noted that the church’s own observations in its suspension request helped convince him that it had sufficient evidence to defend the request.

The survivor told Guardian Australia she welcomed the decision.

“I would like to thank my legal team and above all thank the court for having carefully examined my case,” she said. “I am so happy that I can continue to present my case and seek justice in court. “

In 2017, the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended that courts abolish deadlines for bringing abuse cases, sparking change across the country, including New South Wales.

Campbell noted that the removal of the limitations showed that Parliament believed that “actions relating to child abuse should be permitted despite the passing of even long periods of time and an inevitable degree of depletion of evidence, provided that a just and not perfect trial can take place ”.

The church has been approached for comment.


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