A leading lawyer for survivors of child sexual abuse has played down hopes substantial new evidence will emerge from unredacted Royal Commission reports.
Dr Judy Courtin told The Courier she was "not overly hopeful" full details from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would provide new proof of wrongdoing.
However, she suggested missing information would add more weight to the view that authorities covered up crimes committed by paedophiles working under the auspices of the Catholic Church.
"I am not overly hopeful because we know already how many documents and files have been destroyed," Dr Courtin said. "If there were to be some additional evidence, it would be an absolute bonus."
Large chunks of Royal Commission case studies published in 2017 were redacted due to ongoing prosecutions, including that of Cardinal George Pell in the Victorian court system.
CASE STUDY 28 [REDACTED] - or click here to download PDF directly
Of particular relevance locally is the document known as Case Study 28, which looks at child abuse within the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat and the church authorities' response.
The other document likely to be the subject to intense scrutiny if an unredacted copy is released is Case Study 35, which deals with the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
With the quashing of Cardinal Pell's guilty verdict in the High Court earlier this month, a legal path is now being paved to reveal much of the blacked-out text.
The publicly available sections of Case Study 28 are already extremely critical of Ballarat church authorities' response. Commissioners called it "a catastrophic failure in the leadership of the Diocese" which "led to the suffering and often irreparable harm to children, their families and the wider community. That harm could have been avoided if the Church had acted in the interests of children rather than in its own interests."
Hearings at the Commission revealed that 8.7 per cent of priests in the diocese were accused of sexual abuse and that three consecutive bishops were aware of allegations but did not act.
Earlier this week, the Victorian Attorney General Jill Hennessy confirmed to her federal counterpart Christian Porter there was no known impediment to full publication of the reports in Victoria.
Mr Porter has also recently said his "strong preference" was for the reports to have less redaction - although no firm dates have yet been confirmed for their release.
While the full assessment of the commissioners has never been seen in its entirety, extended transcripts of Cardinal Pell's appearance at the commission hearing, which was done via videolink from Rome in early 2016, remain available on the Royal Commission website.
He consistently denied having any knowledge of the child sexual abuse that took place in the diocese during his time as a priest in the area. The hearing was also where he made his infamous description of Gerald Ridsdale's offending as "'a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me."
As part of the Ballarat consultors' committee from 1977, the then priest George Pell would have had responsibility for advising the bishop on matters including priest appointments in the diocese.
Ridsdale was shifted from parish to parish, allowing him to continue to abuse children. However, Cardinal Pell said that he was deliberately misled by the then Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns, whom he said concealed knowledge of Ridsdale's crimes.
Dr Courtin's law firm represented a survivor who won a landmark case last year in which the Catholic Church admitted liability for sexual abuse committed by Gerald Ridsdale in Mortlake in 1982, with irrefutable evidence the Church knew about Ridsdale's history.
What I want exposed is how the Church today continues to try and crush victims through the courtsDr Judy Courtin
Dr Courtin said at best the unredacted reports would confirm more details about what church authorities knew and pave the way for further successful civil compensations claims.
Her doctorate on justice, the Catholic Church and sexual assault victims, showed that survivors placed a particularly high value both on truth and acknowledgement, she said. "Accountability of the members of the hierarchy for concealment and cover-up - that was even more important to people than the criminal accountability of the original offender."
"We need exposure of the cover-up in simple terms... That evidence may assist with other people's cases."
While the case of Cardinal Pell has thrown a spotlight on the reports, Dr Courtin wants the focus to shift.
"I am sick to death of hearing about Pell - he's getting all the airtime," she said.
"What I want exposed is how the Church today continues to try and crush victims through the courts."
REPORTING FROM THE ROYAL COMMISSION
FEBRUARY 2016 Cardinal Pell joins loud fence movement
DECEMBER 2015 - Royal Commission | Police hid sex abuse
MAY 2015: Unchecked path of a paedophile priest
Affected by this story? There is help available. You can phone CASA, Sebastopol on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292. Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277
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