Last month, MEJ Senior Associate Hassan Ehsan scored a huge victory for victims of institutional abuse in the ACT Supreme Court.

MEJ’s client, a now 63-year-old survivor of child sexual abuse, had signed a settlement deed in 2006 with the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

However, in a landmark ruling, last month the settlement deed was set aside by the ACT Supreme Court, ruling it as “unjust” – the first of such a ruling since laws in the ACT were introduced  in 2022 to allow such settlements to be set aside if deemed unjust, so fair compensation can be sought for survivors of child sexual abuse.

“This is another win for victims,” explains Hassan.

“In what is the first decision concerning section 114K of the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 (ACT), the Court found that the agreement was not just and reasonable for a number of reasons including:

1. The Plaintiff faced legal barriers at the time of executing the deed, including the fact that the limitation period had expired 25 years prior.

2. He did not have any legal representation at the time and received no legal advice as to the agreement.

2. He suffered from dyslexia and had such poor reading and writing skills that he understood what he was signing was a completely separate document.”

“The Decision provides a framework for other victims who might be considering taking a similar step.  This has been a long time coming for my client as the ACT was the last jurisdiction to introduce beneficial legislation to even allow an application of this nature to be made.”

“Victims are now able to bring applications to have their settlement agreements set aside in circumstances where the agreements were unjust and unreasonable or in circumstances where a legal barrier existed.

“This is a significant victory for victims as it now provides them with a clear pathway to seek proper compensation without any legal barriers preventing them from doing so.”

The decision is available at: https://www.courts.act.gov.au/supreme/judgments/walsh-a-pseudonym-v-trustees-of-the-roman-catholic-church-for-the-archdiocese-of-canberra-and-goulburn

To speak with Hassan or another member of the MEJ team, phone us on 02 6257 2999 or send us an email at mail@mej.com.au

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