ACT News

Marist Brothers sex abuse compensation bill expected to rise

Kostka (John) Chute.
Kostka (John) Chute. Photo: Marina Neil

The Marist Brothers may have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional damages to victims of serial paedophile and former Marist College Canberra teacher Kostka (John) Chute.

Jason Parkinson of Porters Lawyers, who has already recovered millions of dollars in compensation for victims, said some of his past clients may have received less than they were entitled to because Marist Brothers had denied prior knowledge that Chute was an abuser.

Additional victims, who had not previously sought redress, have come forward as a result of recent publicity about Chute’s activities in the ACT and elsewhere.

Last month’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse hearing in Canberra was told the Marists had known that Chute was an abuser as early as 1960.

''The Marist Brothers denied even owning their schools, which was outrageous,'' said Mr Parkinson, who handled dozens of compensation cases in 2008 and 2009.

''They also denied knowing, or even that they ought to have known, Kostka Chute was abusing children.''

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Mr Parkinson said when the Marist Brothers offered mediated settlements, he had to tell clients: ''You might get this [what they were seeking] if we could prove these things. We haven’t been able to do that, and this [the fixed-sum offer] is still a good result.''

The game changer is that it is now known the Marists did know Chute had a long history of child abuse, even though they denied this in court.

''It is possible that almost everyone we acted for received less in damages than they may have been entitled to,'' Mr Parkinson said.

''Because of the denials, the Marists got a better deal; they were able to keep the claims away from the courts. We now know they were misleading the victims when they said they didn’t know about Kostka. The royal commission has opened the door for us to revisit these claims.''

Mr Parkinson is keen to make contact with former clients who have been paid out and whose contact details have changed since they last dealt with his firm. Liability does not have to be proved twice.

Additional victims, who say they were abused by Chute in the 1980s, have also come forward since the royal commission hearings.

''We are going to replead these cases based on the royal commission evidence and the evidence from the new witness statements [that has emerged as a result of the media attention],'' he said.

''We will also be seeking discovery to ensure somebody high up in the Marist Brothers testifies under oath that we have been provided with every single relevant document relating to any child abusers who ever taught in an MB college.

''When a very bright light is shone on something, that is when the cockroaches scatter. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of bringing additional perpetrators to light.''