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Father of alleged Pell victim wins High Court loophole fight

In a “monumental” decision, the High Court has thrown out the Catholic Church’s bid to avoid paying damages to the father of a choirboy who was allegedly sexually abused by George Pell.

user iconNaomi Neilson 12 February 2024 Big Law
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The father, known as RWQ to protect his identity, can continue pursuing a claim for damages in the Victorian Supreme Court for the shock he said he suffered when he learnt Cardinal Pell had allegedly abused his now-deceased son in the mid-1990s.

Shine Lawyers’ chief legal officer, Lisa Flynn, said it was a monumental decision for victim-survivors and their loved ones.

“When a child is sexually abused, their whole family suffers as they grapple with the resulting damages, including new family dynamics, changed behaviours, substance abuse, and a life derailed as a result of these heinous crimes,” Ms Flynn said.


“The highest court in the country has today affirmed the church can be held liable for that suffering, and we encourage families left devastated by abuse to pursue justice of their own.”

The church had argued the Ellis defence to excuse itself from the case, having submitted the father was not able to sue as he was not a direct victim of the alleged sexual abuse.

Ms Flynn said the church made a “considerable effort” to exploit the legal system in order to “extricate itself” from the proceedings.

She said the High Court decision means this loophole is now closed.

“We have maintained from the outset that the Catholic Church can be held liable for the pain and suffering our client has endured as a result of the alleged abuse of his now-deceased son.

“The time, energy, and resources the church has deployed in trying to avoid these proceedings would have been better directed at delivering meaningful outcomes to those whose lives have been destroyed,” Ms Flynn added.

Cardinal Pell died in January 2023, almost three years after the High Court overturned convictions for abusing RWQ’s son and choirboy.

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