Nov 21, 2016

Catholic Church 'knew' about crimes of paedophile priest but did nothing for four decades, court hears

NOVEMBER 21, 2016

A Supreme Court justice has ordered that lawyers for the Catholic Church and two women suing it over their alleged child sexual abuse attempt to settle the case outside court.

Two sisters, known for legal reasons as LG and MG, are suing both the estate of the late Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Leo Clarke — who was in charge at the time of the alleged crimes — as well as trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

The sisters were allegedly sexually abused by Father Denis McAlinden in the 1970s and 1980s.

McAlinden died in a nursing home in 2005 without ever having been charged in New South Wales.

A 2013 special commission of inquiry found he had a history of sexually abusing children over five decades, and may have abused more than 100 victims.

Concerns trial may cause 'unnecessary distress' for women
Supreme Court Justice Peter Garling ordered the lawyers for the two parties "exhaust all avenues to resolve the matter outside court" before he allowed the hearing to continue.

Justice Garling said he was concerned the women would be further distressed by the court proceedings and any potential cross-examination and initially gave the lawyers until 2:00pm to reach an agreement, but that was later extended to 10:00am on Tuesday.

"I am concerned that before we embark on a three-week hearing that I have comfortable assurances that attempts to resolve this in a rational way outside the courtroom have been concluded," he said.

"This is not a court where plaintiffs or any witness should be unnecessarily put in distress."
Earlier, the womens' barrister, Anthony Bartley SC, told the Supreme Court that McAlinden had already raped and abused generations of girls in the Maitland region before he got to the sisters.

Mr Bartley said there was a "repeating pattern from 1949 to the 1990s" of the Catholic Church moving the now-dead priest around 21 local parishes, as well as to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Western Australia.

He said there was "a convincing body of evidence that the diocese knew of his conduct in the 1950s and knew of it in the 1950s".

Four decades of alleged abuse by deceased priest
Mr Bartley said the priest was not formally stood down until 1993.

"The church had always available to it the same steps it took so swiftly and efficiently in 1993," he said.

"The reputation has been preserved at the expense of the very children that the church offered protection to."
The church has admitted a duty of care regarding McAlinden only from May 1976 onwards, which is when it says it first became aware of his actions towards children.

The ABC has been told the Catholic Church will not be using the Ellis defence to block this civil litigation.

That relates to the 2007 ruling where the New South Wales Court of Appeal found the Catholic Church could not be sued for compensation because it was not a legal entity.

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