Lismore woman pursues 30-year-old school abuse claim

A LISMORE woman who claims she was sexually abused at a Northern Rivers Catholic school more than 30 years ago has launched legal action in the NSW Supreme Court.

It will be alleged that between 1977 and 1980, when the woman was a child, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a teacher.

The claim refers to a lay teacher and does not reflect on any of the nuns at the Sisters of Mercy.

She is seeking damages from the teacher, the Catholic Education Department, and Trustees of the Sisters of Mercy, as well as three others she claims neglected to protect her.

Defence lawyers questioned whether the woman, who cannot be named, could bring the claims after so much time had passed.

There was also a push to have that question dealt with separately to the trial but Justice Richard Button ruled the case should go ahead and all allegations should be dealt with together. He said it could "hardly be desirable" for the victim of alleged child sexual assault to be asked to give evidence and be cross-examined twice.

He was concerned the defendants would receive an "inappropriate forensic advantage" if that occurred.

The woman will allege time limitation laws should not apply as her delay in bringing the proceedings was caused by a "psychological injury" she suffered as a result of the alleged abuse.

When the case returns to court later this year the court will be asked to rule on whether that argument stands and if the Lismore Catholic Diocese is liable for any alleged abuse.

A directions hearing has been set down for September 13.

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the woman claimed she had been abused by a Catholic sister. Representatives of the Sisters of Mercy have contacted us to say the woman's claim refers to a lay-teacher and does not involve any of the sisters. We apologise for any confusion.



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