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Compensation for sex abuse 'not hush money'

The independent commissioner investigating allegations of sex abuse by Melbourne's Catholic clergy said last night that claims that compensation to victims amounted to "hush money" were baseless and unfounded.

Peter O'Callaghan, QC, defended the complaint procedure that former Melbourne archbishop George Pell set up in Melbourne in 1996 to award sex abuse victims compensation as an alternative to court.

60 Minutes at the weekend aired allegations questioning the complaint process. The program also suggested that Dr Pell tried to silence David Ridsdale.

Mr Ridsdale had phoned Dr Pell in 1993 while he was an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, to claim that he had been sexually abused by his uncle, Father Gerald Ridsdale.

In other developments, it was revealed yesterday that the crimes of pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale were known to Archbishop George Pell, as early as 1989 - despite his earlier claims that he was unaware of them until police launched an investigation in late 1992.

The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday sought clarification from Dr Pell and the discrepancy in dates over a four-year period between 1989 and 1993. His spokesman, Michael Casey, said last night that the archbishop had "only heard rumours around the time Gerald Ridsdale returned home".

And The Courier-Mail reports that David Ridsdale, the man who said on 60 Minutes that Sydney Archbishop George Pell had tried to ``buy his silence'' in 1993 over sex abuse by a priest was himself placed on a good behaviour bond in 1995 over two charges of indecent assault. Ballarat Court records show David Ridsdale, then 29, pleaded guilty to two indecent assault charges on October 5, 1995, and was released on a 12-month bond.

The matter was not mentioned on air, but Mr Westacott said it was mentioned on the 60 Minutes website; and Mr Ridsdale, in reporting his uncle to police, also turned himself in for his own activities at the same time.

A Statement from Archbishop George Pell (Archdiocese of Sydney)
Loss of Faith (60 Minutes)
Sex abuse is a matter for church and police (The Age, Editorial
Silencing sufferers damaging: Power (Canberra Times)
Priest fathered children by teen (Herald-Sun)
Church's shame (Herald-Sun)
Still grappling with legacy of sex abuse (The Australian Editorial)

The Age/SMH/Courier Mail (requires payment)

5 Jun 2002