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Calls for coroner to re-open abuse suicide ca -

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Calls for coroner to re-open abuse suicide cases

Liz Hobday reported this story on Friday, September 16, 2011 08:00:00

TONY EASTLEY: There are calls for the Victorian coroner to re-open the inquests into the deaths of
more than 30 people who have committed suicide after being sexually abused by priests.

New information about these cases has emerged as part of recent court proceedings.

Liz Hobday reports.

LIZ HOBDAY: Gavan Boyle was an altar boy at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral when he was sexually
abused by a priest.

He died four years ago. His brother Jim says Gavan had given up hope of ever dealing with what

JIM BOYLE: Just extremely depressed and miserable. He was not prepared to suicide directly but by
self-neglect and including failure to get treatment for cancer, and poor food intake, and excessive
alcohol intake, he effectively did suicide by a slow process.

LIZ HOBDAY: While the coroner never looked into Gavan's case, Jim Boyle is one of a number of
relatives of abuse victims calling for the Victorian coroner to re-examine cases where there's a
background of sexual abuse by the church.

He says while it's too late for his brother, the findings could help others.

JIM BOYLE: I certainly believe that it could because it could identify the need for far better
treatment than Gavan received.

LIZ HOBDAY: Lawyer Judy Courtin says in Victoria alone, dozens of people have committed suicide
after being abused by paedophile priests.

JUDY COURTIN: The number is now well over 30 that are known at the moment. Thirty young men who
have killed themselves in the years following the sexual assault or rape by two now convicted
clergy paedophiles.

LIZ HOBDAY: Police have gathered new information about many of these cases as part of their
investigation into convicted sex offenders Father Gerald Risdale and Christian Brother Robert Best.

Under recent legislation governing coronial inquiries in Victoria, the coroner has the power to
reopen investigations if new information comes to light.

In the Melbourne Archdiocese of the Catholic Church there's no policy on the reporting of sexual

The Archdiocese says priests are aware of its system for dealing with abuse, called The Melbourne
Response, and:

EXTRACT FROM ARCHDIOCESE STATEMENT: Under the terms of the Melbourne Response, if criminal activity
has occurred the independent commissioner recommends the victim go to the police. We would expect
that a priest would recommend a victim go to police if the priest considered a criminal act had
occurred. There isn't a policy in place as such.

LIZ HOBDAY: And in terms of mandatory reporting laws, the church is largely unregulated. In the
Northern Territory, anyone who has a reasonable suspicion of sexual assault must report to police.
In South Australia, religious ministers are covered by mandatory reporting unless the allegations
are made in a confessional. Mandatory reporting laws in other states and territories do not cover

Judy Courtin says this has to change.

JUDY COURTIN: This is a really a matter that should be taken up by COAG but certainly in the
meantime, the Victorian Government does have the capacity to review this legislation to include
members of the Catholic clergy.

TONY EASTLEY: Lawyer Judy Courtin ending that report by Liz Hobday, and the Victorian coroner and
the state's Attorney-General didn't return calls from the ABC.