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Published: 30 March 2020
Author: RCT Abuse Law team

WA ruling could prompt more claims against Christian Brothers

The Christian Brothers in Western Australia have recently been ordered by a Court to pay a significant amount of compensation to a child sexual abuse survivor, which could lead to a rush of similar claims.

As reported by the ABC, the Christian Brothers are expected to pay $1.32 million in compensation after reaching a settlement with child sexual abuse survivor, James Thomas Lawrence. While not specifically stated in the media reporting of this case, the settlement almost certainly represents an amount for both pain and suffering compensation and loss of income as a result of the abuse.

At eight years old, Mr Lawrence migrated to Australia from England in 1952. For the eight years following this, he lived at the Clontarf and Castledare Boys’ Homes where he was repeatedly subjected to “degrading” and “humiliating” sexual abuse by Christian Brother Lawrence Murphy. The organisation also admitted abuse by two other brothers – Francis Marques, Alonzo Angus, and further crimes committed by teacher Joey Jackson.

Case could prompt hundreds of compensation claims to be filed by other survivors from Christian Brothers homes

Despite admitting from the very beginning that they had failed Mr Lawrence and were liable, the Christian Brothers still tried to reduce the amount of compensation payable. This was done, in part, by arguing that Mr Lawrence’s childhood experiences prior to the abuse, including his mother’s abandonment, meant that he had poor economic and educational prospects anyway. The court rejected this argument, finding that “had it not been for the sexual abuse, [Mr Lawrence] would have had reasonable prospects of leading a reasonably normal life”.

The Western Australian Court ruling offers hope for those in Victoria who often face similar arguments that their experiences both prior to and after institutional care reduced the impact of psychiatric injury suffered as a result of the abuse and their educational and vocational potential, to an extent that also reduces the compensation payable by the relevant defendant.

Ultimately, psychiatric and other evidence will determine the extent to which other experiences have contributed to the severity of an injury, and therefore affect the amount of compensation due as a result of pain and suffering and loss of income.

Nevertheless, we welcome the approach taken by the Western Australian Court and hope the decision leads to defendants evaluating cases more reasonably rather than relying on causative issues to discount the compensation paid.

At RCT Law, we understand how daunting bringing a claim for compensation for child abuse can be. We have previously supported survivors who were subjected to abuse in institutional settings in Victoria, including in homes operated by the Christian Brothers.

For a confidential, free of charge consultation on the options available to survivors of physical, sexual or psychological abuse, please contact our office on (03) 9238 7878 to speak with a member of our specialist RCT Abuse Law team.

Categories Sexual Abuse

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