National

Pell still faces civil suits over abuse

By AAP Newswire

Cardinal George Pell's legal battles are far from over, even though he is a free man.

Alleged victims and their families are among those planning to launch lawsuits against Australia's highest-ranking Catholic.

The father of a choirboy who died in 2014 intends to launch a civil lawsuit against the freed cardinal.

"He has suffered immensely and maintains George Pell was responsible for his son's sudden downward spiral after he abused his son as a young choirboy," lawyer Lisa Flynn said of her client.

The choirboy's father continues to believe his son was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of the cardinal, she said.

"Our civil case is focused on the devastating impact this has had on our client's life."

The standard on proof in a civil matter rests on the balance of probabilities, Ms Flynn explained.

"That is whether it is more probable than not the abuse occurred and caused our client to suffer injury."

Another man who claimed Cardinal Pell molested him in the 1970s launched a similar suit in Victoria's Supreme Court last year.

He alleged he was a victim of physical and sexual abuse while in the care of Ballarat's St Joseph's Boys home.

The suit named Cardinal Pell, the trustees of the Sisters of Nazareth (formerly St Joseph's), the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the State of Victoria.

He was originally a complainant in a second County Court trial against Cardinal Pell, dropped by prosecutors last year over a lack of evidence.

"It took a lot of courage and soul searching to be prepared to tell my story, accusing one of the most senior Catholics in the world of serious criminal offences and eventually I was resigned to having my day in court," the man said at the time.

In a statement of claim, he alleged Cardinal Pell sexually abused him three or four times in a swimming pool at the home.

Slater and Gordon abuse lawyer Nick Hart said other potential victims could come forward because of the High Court decision.

But it could prompt others to stay silent.

"It's a sad fact that with his sex abuse convictions being overturned today by the High Court, many abuse victims would continue suffering in silence and may lose hope that they will ever be believed."

He urged anyone who was a victim of abuse to come forward and not let the recent decision stop them seeking justice.

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