Orphan abuse anger
November 26, 2006 12:15am
LAWYERS acting for Goodwood Orphanage abuse victims have recommendedthey accept an offer from the Catholic Church to settle their legalclaims.
They have written to 23 victims involved in a class actionagainst the church advising them an offer made a fortnight ago is "set inconcrete" and that any court action is unlikely to succeed.
Under a formal restorative justice program revealed in the SundayMail earlier this month, the Catholic Church has offered physical abusevictims fixed payments of $15,000 and sexual abuse victims $45,000. They canalso access services to a maximum of $5000.
Several of the victims have already rejected the offer as inadequate, sayingit does not cover many of the types of physical abuse they suffered whileresidents at the orphanage.
The Sisters of Mercy ran Goodwood Orphanage from 1890 until it closed in1975. Residents included orphans, British child migrants during and followingWorld War II, and children placed in institutional care because of familyhardship.
Numerous former residents have contacted the Catholic Church since evidenceof abuse was tabled in the British House of Commons in 1997.
In a letter to abuse victims involved in the class action, lawyer PeterHumphries says those who meet the various eligibility criteria would receive$15,000 cash and services to the value of $5000, with the church paying alllegal fees.
"You may well think this amount of money is inadequate. We share that view,"he states.
"The reality, however, is that it is unlikely that the church will increasethat sum and further, it is unlikely that any legal action will be successfulgiven all the difficulties of the passage of time and proof of knowledge andother matters that would be hurdles in the way of any successful litigation.
"For those reasons, we are willing to recommend your acceptance of theoffer."
Former Goodwood resident and physical abuse victim Pat Carlson, 72, said shewas "very cross" about the offer from the church.
"I think they are taking advantage of us," she said. "Some of us are veryangry about this offer. It is inadequate to say the least.
"It does not even take into account the 17 months I worked there for no pay.It is simply not fair."
Fellow physical abuse victim Maggie Bray echoed her comments.
Ms Bray, 64, said she worked "very hard" for many years and that has not beentaken into account in the program.
"The girls worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week without being paid acent," she said. "I don't care about the money. They are not even admitting tothe fundamental things that went on there."
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