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Church faces class action by parents for damages

The Catholic Church in South Australia faces a large compensation claim over a former school bus driver who sexually assaulted intellectually disabled children.

Parents of victims of Brian Charles Perkins, 66, will seek damages from the church following a decision by Perkins to plead guilty yesterday to five child sex offences involving two male students at St Ann's School in the Adelaide suburb of Marion.

The District Court heard the offences took place on the school's bus, in its woodwork room where Perkins volunteered, at his southern suburbs home and at a Prospect address.

Perkins was arrested in Queensland in March last year and extradited back to South Australia following a personal plea by Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson to Police Commissioner Mal Hyde.

Archbishop Phillip Wilson welcomed Perkins's guilty plea.

"We're very pleased that Brian Perkins has accepted responsibility for the pain he has caused and I hope that the full process of the application of justice will bring some sense of relief to victims and their families," he said.

Subsequent revelations about Perkins prompted the Premier, Mike Rann, to announce a review into child protection which was later conducted by senior lawyer Robyn Layton, QC.

The Church also ordered an independent inquiry into allegations it mishandled allegations about Perkins in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It has engaged Adelaide barrister Brian Hayes, QC, to prepare a report from statements taken by a team of lawyers during a 12-month investigation.

Parents of Perkins' victims said yesterday they would not be waiting for Mr Hayes's report before seeking compensation from the church. A spokeswoman said several parents had instructed a lawyer to prepare a class action against the church if it did not respond satisfactorily through its framework of handling child sex abuse complaints, Towards Healing.

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School bus driver pleads guilty to child sex offences (ABC)

5 Aug 2003