Pell’s controversial plans could cost church millions
VICTIMSof child sex abuse by Catholic clergy who settled their complaints under controversial plans drawn up by convicted paedophile Cardinal George Pell could be free to sue for millions.
If Pell's convictions for sexually assaulting two choirboys are confirmed by the Victorian Court of Appeal, it will throw into chaos every one of the thousands of "paltry" settlements made under the so-called Melbourne Response and Towards Healing schemes, lawyers have said.
"It will make all the settlements void if the architect of the schemes was a paedophile," victims' lawyer Jason Parkinson said on Monday.
The twin schemes were set up in 1996 while Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne, just weeks before the first of the sexual assaults on the choirboys in St Patrick's Cathedral of which he was convicted.
Pell went on to become the country's most senior Catholic, appointed a cardinal in 2003 and Archbishop of Sydney.
With initial payment capped at $50,000, the schemes have long been criticised for protecting the Catholic Church, with victims having to sign away their rights to sue the church in civil claims in court.
"Clearly this entire system was designed to protect paedophiles and to ensure victims never got proper compensation," Mr Parkinson, who has represented more than 1800 sexual abuse victims, said.
"Pell kept saying look what I have done to help the victims, but the schemes were designed by a paedophile and run by mainly the same people."
Mr Parkinson said 95 per cent of those 1800 victims' claims were against Catholic clergy. His push to tear down the schemes follows similar calls from victims.
Church leader, the former chief executive of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, has also called for an end to the Melbourne Response.
And the child abuse royal commission found it was not run independently of the Melbourne Archdiocese, with the same lawyers acting for both entities as well as the Archdiocese of Sydney.
The National Redress Scheme set up in the wake of the royal commission offers payments up to $150,000.