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Church in South Australia to pay over sex abuse of disabled

The Catholic Church is negotiating compensation with parents of intellectually disabled children in South Australia who were sexually abused by a school employee in the late 1980s.

A small group of parents contacted the SA Catholic Education Office in July last year over the failure of police to lay charges. The church has since met police and had follow-up meetings with families.

Yesterday about 60 letters were sent to the parents of students who attended the school at that time, including the parents of disabled children who had since died, effectively advising them their children, aged from seven to 20, may have been exposed to abuse. Parents of current students were also notified.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson met Police Commissioner Mal Hyde but was unable to say yesterday why the man had never been charged. An internal inquiry will be held to find out why the abuses, which were reported soon after, were left unattended for so long.

A new police investigation is under way and a team of special investigating officers has been appointed to pursue the case.

The incidents, believed to have affected from 10 to 15 students, occurred at St Ann's Special School in the Adelaide suburb of Marion between 1986 and 1991.

Archbishop Wilson yesterday apologised to parents and students at the school.

``There are indications there are criminal elements involved in this," he said. ``If there are any criminal matters that come up we immediately contact the police and that is what we did."

The archbishop said parents could feel ``a certain incompletion over the way that was dealt with at that period of time.

Catholic Education South Australia

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21 Mar 2002