A man argued that he should be able to opt out of the Queensland legal system.
A man argued that he should be able to opt out of the Queensland legal system. ©istockphoto/DNY59

Rape victims' families sue church

PARENTS of three children who were allegedly raped and molested by a Toowoomba Catholic primary school teacher are suing the church.

Damian Scattini, of law firm Slater and Gordon, is representing the three families who have launched separate civil claims against the Corporation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba, the entity responsible for the school.

Mr Scattini said his clients were traumatised by the events of the past two years and were devastated when the principal was cleared of responsibility in court last week.

Mr Scattini said his case would be that the three girls he was acting on behalf of were all sexually abused after the principal and his Catholic Education Office superiors were informed of a student’s complaint that she was sexually abused by the teacher.

“They were put into harm’s way deliberately by the church,” Mr Scattini said.

“It is clear the church has been completely derelict in their duty to these children.

“(They were abused) after the church was told there was an (alleged) pedophile teaching at that school.”

Two notices of claim were served on the diocese last month while the third notice of claim will be served tomorrow.

The claims allege that the diocese failed to adequately monitor and supervise the teacher concerned and failed to adequately investigate complaints of sexual assaults in September, 2007, after the school principal, an employee of the defendant, received a complaint from a girl.

Mr Scattini said one parent’s world fell apart when he learned of the abuse suffered by his daughter.

“He and his wife say their heads were spinning when their daughter told them of her experience, followed by allegations from more children, police interviews, and the arrest of the teacher,” Mr Scattini said.

“They were shocked to later learn that a complaint had previously been made to the school in 2007.

“They wrote: ‘We were stunned at the magnitude of it all. But being part of a great school we thought there would be plenty of support but instead all we found were lies, secrecy and suddenly becoming isolated from the school community not only by parents but staff’.”

Mr Scattini said the parents were concerned the principal would return to school.

“My clients have already contacted the bishop (William Morris) to ask that the principal not return next year to the school where many of these children are still attending,” he said.

Bishop Morris is required to respond by tomorrow.

The church has already been given an extension to gather its evidence, but this deadline also expires tomorrow.

“The church has to provide us with the documents evidencing what they knew and when they knew it,” Mr Scattini said.

“We will be seeking punitive damages because the church has got to learn this is not acceptable.”

Mr Scattini said that if the matter could not be resolved at a compulsory conference, a trial would be held next year.

“Whatever happens, we will be wanting a full and open hearing,” he said.

“Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

Bishop Morris yesterday released a statement which said the victims and their families were “his highest priority”.

“While it is not appropriate for me to comment on particular cases at this time, I understand and respect the rights of victims to pursue claims,” Bishop Morris said.

“My thoughts and prayers remain with all who have been affected by this tragedy.”

The accused teacher is charged with 12 counts of rape and 34 counts of indecent treatment of children.

It is expected he will plead guilty to the charges in the Toowoomba District Court early next year.

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