A Victorian jury has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Catholic Church, awarding $3.3 million to the victim of a notorious paedophile after the church argued compensation should be only $250,000.
The Supreme Court case is the first time a civil trial against the Catholic Church has been tested before jurors.
On Friday, the jury delivered a verdict against the diocese of Wagga Wagga over abuse by priest Vincent Kiss. The verdict included handing the victim $1.3 million in exemplary damages, after the diocese initially claimed in its legal defence that it was unaware of Kiss’ abuse of the victim, despite him pleading guilty to criminal charges in 2002 and serving a seven-year prison sentence.
The archdiocese only conceded the abuse and amended its statement of defence on October 20, four days before the trial began.
The church had claimed the man, who was given a pseudonym during the trial, was entitled to only $250,000 in damages for pain and suffering, and should not receive any compensation for past or future economic loss.
Barrister Jonathan Brett, KC, representing the victim, slammed the church’s legal tactics and its failure to follow its own guidelines on responding to historical clerical abuse, known as “Towards Healing”, which caps compensation to victims at $150,000.
“Healing for the victims’ is in the heading, and this is what they are supposed to do, ‘a sensitive and compassionate response to the complainant must be the first priority in all cases of abuse’,” Brett told the jury of six on November 8.