Legal eagles offer aid on child abuse

THE lawyer who extracted more than $800,000 in damages from the Anglican Church after a student at an Anglican school was abused, has offered to help Jewish victims of child abuse.

While no cases have been filed within the Jewish community, Stephen Roche, a partner at Shine Lawyers, and Jewish human rights lawyer George Newhouse (pictured), have joined forces to “support the victims of sexual abuse … in St Kilda’s Jewish community”.

With criminal investigations underway on suspected Jewish child abusers, Newhouse told The AJN he was willing to help victims assess other legal options.

“The most common avenue is for a civil case to be brought against the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s employer for damages for assault, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence,” Newhouse said.

The Sydney-based lawyer noted that those wishing to pursue a civil claim need to do so quickly.

“Often well-meaning people do nothing while they await the outcomes of criminal action,” he said. “Later, when they decide to make a claim, they discover that they have a time-limitation problem.”

Asked whether he saw comparisons between current allegations of child abuse, which centre on Melbourne’s Yeshivah College and Adass Israel School, and the Anglican school case he was involved in, Roche said it was possible.

“It is really too early to specifically comment on parallels between the two cases, but my experience of such cases suggests that the patterns of behaviour are often quite similar.

“For example, in many cases, there is usually a denial by the institution that it had any knowledge of any impropriety.”

Roche said the onus was on victims to prove that a school or institution knew or should have known about abuse and chose to ignore it.

He has previously represented  victims of institutional abuse.

One of his most high-profile cases saw a court order the Brisbane Anglican Archdiocese to pay more than $800,000 in 2001 to a former schoolgirl who had suffered ongoing sex abuse in 1990, when she was 12 years old.

NAOMI LEVIN