Historic win for Western Australian sexual abuse survivor

25 May 2020
A sexual abuse survivor has won a historic judgment in the first case of its kind before the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Maurice Blackburn WA Head of Abuse Law Gemma Taylor said the $850,000 judgment against the Anglican Church and the State of Western Australia for her client Albert Aitken was secured within just 16 days due to her client’s ill health.

“This is of historical significance both as the first case of Institutional Childhood Sexual Abuse to ever be brought in the Supreme Court of WA and due to the speed at which it was finalised.

“Tragically Mr Aitken was given just two months to live in April 2020 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

“Just as a successful mesothelioma claim was being settled for Mr Aitken by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in May the potential abuse claim was picked up by lawyers in our dust team.

“Due to his serious ill health proceedings for his claim were commenced on 4 May and were fast tracked through the Supreme Court, in what we believed is one of the fastest listings in WA history.

“It was vitally important that the claim be finalised quickly as had Mr Aitken passed away before a judgment had been reached, his claim would have died with him, as there is no survivorship for the family of survivors of institutional childhood abuse.

“On 7 May His Honour the Chief Justice P Quinlan set down trial dates for the matter to commence on 25 May, only 21 days after proceedings were commenced.

“This great outcome was only made possible due to the extraordinary priority that the Supreme Court of WA gave to Mr Aitken’s right to Justice and their willingness to put any and all resources into ensuring his matter was heard.

Ms Taylor said that Mr Aitken was abused after being made a ward of the State in the mid 1940’s and placed in Swan Homes, later known as Swanleigh, which was run by the Anglican Church.

“During his time at Swanleigh our Mr Aitken was subjected to horrific rape, four to five times a week for a whole year from the age of 12.

“He repeatedly complained and was told that he wouldn’t be believed. He lived with the horror of what happened to him, and the knowledge that justice was denied for almost his entire lifetime – until now

Ms Taylor said that Mr Aitken’s case is a reminder of one of the key the advantages of bringing a civil claim for institutional sexual abuse as an alternative to the Redress Scheme in which damages are not capped

“It’s worth noting that if Mr Aitken had pursued a claim under the Federal Redress Scheme instead of a civil claim he could only have received and maximum of $150,000 in compensation despite the severity of his abuse,” she said.

Media inquiries: Jacob O'Shaughnessy at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 0428 814 037 or via jo'shaughnessy@mauriceblackburn.com.au

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