Father of Alleged Victim is Permitted to Take Cardinal Pell and Melbourne Archdiocese to Civil Court
Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of assault in 2018 and then exonerated in 2020. He is now being taken to civil court by the father of one of his alleged victims. In the original case Cardinal Pell was in court for sexually assaulting choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia, in 1996.
Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence. The Archdiocese asked to be excused from the civil case, however, the courts have ruled that both Pell and the Archdiocese can be held liable if the plaintiff wins his case.
According to the court documents:
The plaintiff (father) claims damages against the first defendant for nervous shock which he alleges is founded on or arises from the sexual abuse of his son by the second defendant. The first defendant contends that the application of the Act is confined to claims by plaintiffs who have been subjected to child abuse (‘primary victim’). It contends that the Act has no application to the plaintiff’s claim because he does not allege that he was subjected to child abuse. The plaintiff claims to have suffered psychiatric injury upon learning of his son having been subjected to child abuse and subsequent death caused by the child abuse (‘secondary victim’). Cardinal Pell allegedly sexually assaulted his son when he was a choirboy at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.
The father's barrister, Julian Burnside QC, argues the 2018 legislation applied to both primary victims and their families. "What our learned friends' submission amounts to is this: If the victim of child abuse dies, then the family has no remedy, they have no-one they can sue," Mr Burnside said. "Now that's plainly wrong in our submission."
"If the plaintiff is awarded damages against the second defendant [George Pell], the Archdiocese will ensure that the award is paid by indemnifying the second defendant in respect of the award," the letter said. The father of the choirboy, is not named for legal reasons, initiated his case last month. The father is claiming general damages, special damages and seeking compensation for past loss of earning capacity as well as past and future medical expenses. His solicitor, Lisa Flynn, said the High Court's decision to overturn Cardinal Pell's conviction does not affect the civil proceedings. "The High Court made some decisions in relation to the criminal prosecution against [George] Pell. Our case is a civil case against George Pell and the Catholic Archdiocese," she said.