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Australian abuse victim told to repay compensation cash

Australian abuse victim told to repay compensation cash

An over-zealous lawyer had been blamed by the Catholic Church for a ‘ham-fisted’ letter sent to Gina Swannell, above, demanding the return of an undisclosed amount of money she received from the Wagga Wagga diocese in an out-of-court settlement.

Swannell, according to this report, was one of the original campaigners for Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In 2013, she was one of the first to give evidence to the commission in private hearings.

She later decided to sue the church and the order of nuns which ran the school, the Presentation Sisters, in the NSW Supreme Court.

She alleged the late Father Charles Holdsworth sexually abused her eight or nine times in the confessional box of St Fiacre’s Church, Urana.

In November, after an interview with the ABC about the church’s refusal to mediate with her, she received an out-of-court settlement.

The letter from Tim Abbott accused her of breaching a confidentiality clause in the settlement by lying, and demanded she apologise for the “untruths” she told in later interviews with ABC and The Daily Advertiser in Wagga Wagga.

Days after the newspaper interview she received a letter from the lawyer for the Diocese of Wagga Wagga, who branded her comments to the newspaper as “complete rubbish” and demanded the settlement money back.

But after being contacted by the ABC on Wednesday, the Bishop of Wagga Wagga, Gerard Hanna, said he did not instruct the lawyer to make the demands and he would not be pursuing Swannell for the money.

Swannell said the letter had re-traumatised her at a time when she was hoping to get her life back on track.

I was nauseous and I was shaking. I was absolutely devastated because the whole time I have fought this fight … for the victims who cannot speak.

She denies that she breached the terms of settlement.

The only thing I agreed to is not to disclose the amount of money. Should I have agreed to accept money and stay quiet, that to me would have been a bribe. If I was then to have taken that money and still kept my mouth closed that would have made me an enabler of the underhanded process that I and many of us are subjected to.

Francis Sullivan, from the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said the letter was “ham-fisted” and did not reflect the pastoral approach of the church on child sexual abuse matters.

Sullivan said he had spoken to Bishop Hanna, and was pleased that he had told him the diocese would not be pursuing Swannell for the money.

In a statement to the ABC, Bishop Hanna said while he had instructed the lawyer to send a letter to correct the public record, he did not instruct him to demand the money back nor did he instruct him to demand a public apology from Swannell.

But I wanted to make the point a mediated agreement was made in good faith and should be respected by all parties.

The bishop later said the lawyer had acted “independently” in making the demands because the bishop was away on holidays at the time.

He said he intended the retain the services of the lawyer but in future, the diocese would review his letters to ensure he did not go “over the top”.

But Abbott is standing fast and said he believed the letter was “appropriate”.

Swannell said she would never be silenced.

Everybody who has encountered me during this fight knew I was in this for the people. For the victims, for the little ones, for the children.

That’s why I did what I did. That’s why I will continue to do what I do. Because I will never be quiet about sexual abuse of children. Ever.

10 responses to “Australian abuse victim told to repay compensation cash”

  1. Stuart H. says:

    I suspect the bishop is being somewhat economic with the truth, which is no more than you’d expect from someone who is in the misdirection business.

    As anyone working in an institution which has regular dealings with lawyers knows, they don’t do any work – even as minor as a short letter – without a clear written instruction and prepayment. And the idea that any legal professional would have his work ‘reviewed’ by a mere client before being allowed to carry it out…..sorry, that sounds even less likely than the transubstantiation of hosts.

  2. sailor1031 says:

    Perhaps a few who have no notion of Lawyer-client relations will actually believe this steaming pile of RCC Inc. crap. What liars these bishops are.

  3. Trevor Blake says:

    If it were a business or a club or a gang that operated an identical international multi-decade sex abuse and child rape ring, that group would be pilloried. But because it is a religious group all is forgiven and forgotten every time. Every new atrocity is presented as an isolated bad apple. But it is the breed itself – religion – that should be mocked and reasoned off the face of the planet.

  4. Ellis-e-yum says:

    The rcc is by a huge margin the most overt ORGANISED CRIME SYNDICATE in the world dealing in blackmail, child rape, child trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion, fraud, extortion, coercion, bribery, perjury,false accounting, physical assault, murder by spreading of aids, deception, harassment …. You name it they have done it. And they operate in plain view using the threat of eternal damnation. It’s a disgrace that governments and global organisations don’t intervene and stamp out this appalling threat to humanity.

  5. AgentCormac says:

    @Ellis-e-yum
    Bravo!

  6. RussellW says:

    Seems like the standard legal ‘threatening letter’ which is usually legal bullshit anyway.

    Ellis-e-yum,

    Agreed, unfortunately the reason that the RCC has survived is that it has 2000 years experience of infiltrating and subverting governments. Like another notorious Italian organisation, the RCC practises omerta very successfully.

  7. Justin Badby says:

    But now we have the internet, a wonderful resource, available to all, to view and share information that damns these organisations. All religions have thrived because they could locally intimidate people with impunity because those people, in ignorance bourne of isolation, had no way of knowing that there were millions of others of repressed and exploited people … exploited by the calculating, well coordinated pious. Well now the game is up because instead of being isolated we can all share the information that confirms how appallingly corrupt these organisations really are. And the rcc will fall … very soon. And the muslims will see how the islamofacists are contriving to bring the civilised world to its knees. The common man can now communicate freely without the pious censorship and control that has retarded humanity for millennia. The massed battalions of ordinary reasonable caring rational hard working people will soon dispense with the parasitic burden of the godly. Modern technology at the disposal of the common man has started to drive the screws to hold down the coffin lid on organised religion and all those who profitted from it.

  8. Ellis-e-yum says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-35374741

    Catholics in Washington, Baltimore, and Delaware were told by archdiocese officials that missing Mass this Sunday was excusable given the terrible conditions.

    What is wrong with people that they accept this shit from the rcc. Unbelievable that such an appalling organisation talks to people this way and that the people take it without complaint.

  9. barriejohn says:

    Nothing gets the goat of the religious more than an attack upon their finances. So much for their vows of poverty and promises to “live like Jesus”! This is fascinating but will hold little that would surprise visitors to this blog:

    https://signposts02.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/an-overview-of-religious-financial-fraud/