Christian Brothers abuse victim wins costs

John Lawrence was abused over eight years as an orphan in Perth in the 1950s.
John Lawrence was abused over eight years as an orphan in Perth in the 1950s.

A man awarded more than $1.3 million over horrific child sex abuse he suffered under the care of the Christian Brothers in Western Australia has successfully claimed special costs related to the "unusual difficulty" of the court action.

John Thomas Lawrence, 75, was abused over eight years as an orphan at the Clontarf and Castledare institutions in Perth in the 1950s.

The Christian Brothers admitted liability on the first day of a WA District Court civil trial earlier this year.

But the group sought to minimise Mr Lawrence's compensation on the basis the child migrant from the UK would have had poor economic and educational prospects regardless of the abuse.

In a District Court judgment delivered on Thursday, Judge Mark Herron granted a special costs order totalling about $200,000 sought by Mr Lawrence, which was disputed by the Christian Brothers.

The order allows Mr Lawrence to be compensated above statutory limits for his legal costs based on the unusual difficulty, complexity and importance of the matter.

Judge Herron noted the roughly 60 years that had passed between the abuse and the trial, and an absence of early documentation that made the legal team's preparation particularly difficult.

He also noted the psychological damage suffered by Mr Lawrence and the public significance of the case.

At the trial - which was expedited as Mr Lawrence has a shortened life expectancy due to leukaemia, heart disease and diabetes - he testified he was raped multiple times by Brother Lawrence Murphy from age nine.

Mr Lawrence also detailed persistent abuse he suffered at the hands of Brothers Francis Marques and Alonzo Angus as well as a lay teacher, Joey Jackson, who made him wear lipstick and a skirt while being violated.

All of the abusers are now dead.

Mr Lawrence was illiterate when he left Clontarf aged 16 and suffered "catastrophic" psychiatric harm from the abuse, seeking to end his life dozens of times and struggling to hold down meaningful employment, the court heard.

The case was the first to go to trial since the state government removed a time limit on child sex abuse survivors taking legal action in 2018.

Mr Lawrence, who consented to be identified, said after the landmark compensation decision that he could now move on with his life.

"Money is not everything: I'm just glad I told my story," he said.

Australian Associated Press