More victims of one of Australia’s worst pedophile priests are joining a legal action against the Catholic Church every day, a lawyer says.
Notorious pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale is already serving a long jail stint and on Tuesday received another eight years after pleading guilty to 30 new charges against 14 boys and girls.
Lawyer Vivian Waller said 20 victims had joined the joint action against the Diocese of Ballarat so far, but she expected that number to grow.
She said the joint legal action would be the first to test the church’s decision to take a less aggressive line on child sex abuse compensation cases.
Dr Waller said it may not just be victims whose cases had been tried in court who would come forward.
“There might be people who are unwilling to come forward and be involved in a criminal process,” Dr Waller told AAP on Wednesday.
“They can still come forward and seek legal advice and seek compensation.”
Dr Waller said the legal action would be different to a traditional class action because the individual cases were so varied.
“It’s different assaults on different kids on different days in different parishes over the course of Ridsdale’s career,” she said.
Francis Sullivan, chief executive of the church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, said the church wanted an independent and transparent body to handle child sex abuse cases.
He said drawn-out court cases placed too high a burden of proof for too many people, meaning some cases never made it in front of a judge.
“The litigation system is probably the worst system to get people what they need,” Mr Sullivan told ABC radio.
Mr Sullivan said all Catholic dioceses and religious orders had been told to make a legal entity that can be sued over child sex offences.
Ridsdale has been in jail since 1994 and had been eligible for parole when the latest charges were laid in 2013.
He has admitted abusing 53 victims.
“Ridsdale is probably one of Australia’s most prolific and notorious sexual offenders,” Dr Waller said.
The 79-year-old will be eligible for parole in April 2019.