A West Australian judge yesterday awarded the highest payment ever to a victim in a case of Christian Brothers child abuse. Judge Mark Herron ordered the Christian Brothers to pay damages of $1.32 million to 75-year-old John Lawrence.
Judge Herron described the abuse of child migrant Mr Lawrence as insulting, humiliating and degrading. He also described Mr Lawrence’s survival to the age of 75 as a miracle following what he endured as a child.
“I regard it as miraculous that Mr Lawrence — given the torment with which he has lived since he was first raped, causing him psychiatric and psychological injury, leading to alcoholism, drug overdoses, self-harm and suicide attempts — has survived at all.”
One brother raped Mr Lawrence six times. The religious order admitted he also suffered abuse at the hands of two other brothers. Additionally, a lay teacher at the orphanage forced the child to wear lipstick and a dress during further sexual assaults.
After the trial, Mr Lawrence told the ABC he could now get on with his life.
“It turned out alright. I told the truth and that’s all really you can do.
“It’s all over now. I can just push it aside now and get on with my life, what life I’ve got left.”
Brothers requested smaller payout because of victim’s childhood poverty
During the trial, the Christian Brothers admitted liability but argued for a lesser payout based on John Lawrence’s diminished prospects in life because of his impoverished upbringing.
A barrister for the Christian Brothers told the court it seemed ‘illogical and unfair’ but that the man’s poor upbringing meant a lower earning potential throughout his lifetime.
Judge Herron rejected that argument. He described the rapists as ‘sexual abusers masquerading as Brothers’. He said the sexual abuse they subjected the child to, extinguished his “reasonable prospects of leading a reasonably normal life.”
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