Justice must be sought ... no brother from the order has faced court over abuse allegations. Photo: Peter Rae
BROTHERS from the St John of God order fabricated a sex assault allegation about one of their own child abuse victims in a bid to discredit him, confidential legal settlement documents allege.
Another brother from the order was the subject of at least seven abuse allegations between 1975 and the 1990s and was reported to officials in Rome - but not to police or his victims' families, according to the records of settlement negotiations sighted by Fairfax Media.
The claims were made during secret legal negotiations in 2001 that eventually resulted in the order's Victorian abuse victims receiving some $3.6 million in compensation.
The documents raise questions about why no brother from the order has ever faced court for abusing children in Victoria and about the order's failure to act on the abuse.
On Tuesday, the day after the federal government announced a royal commission into the abuse of children in care, Cardinal George Pell said the role of the Catholic Church in abuse scandals had been exaggerated.
The 2001 meeting, recorded in notes, involved lawyers and representatives for the order, its insurers and the victims and was in response to legal claims by dozens of men who alleged they had been abused while being cared for as boys at the order's homes in Victoria.
The victims were mostly intellectually and/or physically impaired and had been living in the care of the order which had homes at Cheltenham in Melbourne's south, a training farm at Lilydale, east of Melbourne and in Melbourne's north-east called Churinga.
Peter Gordon, from the legal firm Slater & Gordon, and barrister John Gordon represented victims at the September 17 meeting. They opened by laying out the victims' compensation claims. The disturbing allegations included:
a sex assault claim had been fabricated against one of the child abuse complainants;
one brother was the subject of seven or eight abuse allegations starting in 1975 and going to the 1990s, but was never reported to police;
complaints were ignored and the complainants themselves were shifted from institution to institution and removed from the public eye during open days at the institutions;
parents wrote letters complaining about abuse allegations and the order either did nothing or swapped the brothers around and hid the problem.
In response, Carroll & O'Dea lawyer Howard Harrison, representing the order, was reported to have said that the brothers had tried to act on this particular sex abusing brother at the time by ringing ''the provincial of the day who rang Rome''.
Mr Harrison also noted that this suspected abusing brother should have been sent to an expert in dealing with such behaviour, but such a person did not exist at the time.
Mr Harrison told the meeting that there was ''no mandatory reporting'' of abuse at the time and the brothers had ''devoted their lives to these clients and a lot of them are hurting badly''.
But John Gordon is reported to have noted that the particular abusing brother had assaulted one client, the assault was covered up and then two years later the same brother abused another boy.
The documents also reveal that one victim's economic loss was estimated at close to $1 million and others were worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each.
Only one brother was named during the meeting as an alleged abuser. Others responsible for the fabricated sex abuse complaint or a failure to act have not been identified.
The order reported the allegations to police in 1997 after dozens of victims came forward, but Victorian Police have declined to explain why they were unable to charge any of the brothers despite a lengthy investigation that ran well into the 2000s.
Last week an inquiry into child abuse at religious and other institutions in Victoria was told there had allegedly been an alpha paedophile at the order and brothers had drugged and ''pack raped'' boys and that two boys had gone missing under suspicious circumstances.
Fairfax Media put questions about the meeting to a spokesman for the order's provincial in Australia, Timothy Graham, who was reported to have arrived in Australia on Tuesday. But the spokesman late on Wednesday said Brother Graham was yet to respond.
This week Peter Gordon and Mr Harrison declined to comment as the legal negotiations had been confidential. Efforts to contact John Gordon were unsuccessful on Wednesday.
Representing the order's then provincial Peter Burke was psychologist Michelle Mulvihill and representing the individual brothers at the meeting was lawyer Greg Walsh. Dr Mulvihill and Mr Walsh could not be contacted for comment.
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For help go to www.sexualassault.nsw.gov.au.