Abuse Reports

Catholic Choirboy Sues Over Sex Abuse

By Bruce MacDougall
February 08, 2003

A CIVIL action for compensation has been launched against the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney over the sexual abuse of a child more than 20 years ago.

The victim, a former choirboy at St Mary's Cathedral, is suing the church and a former choirmaster alleging failure in their duty of care.

David Russell, St Mary's choirmaster and musical director since 1976, was dismissed on January 31 by the Dean of the Cathedral, Monsignor Tony Doherty.

In 1988 David O'Grady, a former employee at the cathedral, was sentenced to 18 months' periodic detention after pleading guilty to seven charges of indecent assault on two children aged 10 and 12. In 2001 he was found guilty of one charge of indecent assault against a child and was sentenced to 350 hours' community service.

Some of the offences, committed in the early 1980s, were alleged to have taken place at Mr Russell's home at Stanmore.

There is no suggestion that Mr Russell had any involvement in any of the offences and he is said to have been unaware of them at the time.

Mr Russell could not be reached for comment last night but supporters suggested he was considering taking action for unfair dismissal.

The Daily Telegraph has been told that in the 1980s O'Grady boarded at Mr Russell's home.

Mr Russell is not under any investigation by the church, nor is he the subject of any police investigation.

Mr Russell's dismissal has brought angry protests from members of the church.

Last Sunday's mass was boycotted by the men of the cathedral choir and the dean was confronted by the parents of child choristers after the service.

It is understood a letter of protest from adult choristers has been sent to the office of Archbishop George Pell.

Last night the Catholic Church's communications director Marita Franklin referred questions about the issue to Monsignor Doherty.

Monsignor Doherty refused to comment but it is understood he has defended the sacking of Mr Russell by saying the church followed "due process".

"We really haven't [got anything to say], I'm sorry about that," he said.

"The whole issue is quite delicate. I can't confirm anything at the moment."