Victims of historic child sex abuse speak out, after Catholic Church refuses to accept “liability” for the crimes of their priests

Nov 15, 2014

By The National Secular Society

The Catholic Church is refusing to accept “liability” for long-term sex abuse that went on at the Mirfield Junior Seminary, despite paying out £120,000 to eleven victims of child sex abuse.

The seminary, which closed down in 1984, was run by the Verona Fathers (now known as the Comboni Missionaries) and saw sexual abuse perpetrated by priests against children as young as 11.

Three Catholic priests of the Verona Fathers are said to have repeatedly abused boys in their care. Now twelve of their victims have joined together to campaign for justice. The former pupils have launched a website to share their experiences of the seminary, called Mirfield Memories, and to offer support for their fellow victims.

The men’s efforts have led to many of their fellow pupils coming forward to describe their own experiences of abuse at the Mirfield Seminary.

In a press release the “Mirfield 12” describe some of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Verona Fathers. One of three priests accused of abuse, Fr Pinkman, “used to bring boys, as young as 11 to his bedroom, to explain the facts of life to them and ask them to remove their clothes so that he could explain further. He went on to abuse many of them”.


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42 comments on “Victims of historic child sex abuse speak out, after Catholic Church refuses to accept “liability” for the crimes of their priests

  • I venture to submit that blind faith can generate an unparalleled degree of arrogance and hubris.

    But I suppose that imagining that you have a direct line to the Almighty is likely to bring that sort of mentality about.

    I speak as one who has been told by a Catholic priest that he felt sorry for me because I didn’t believe in anything.

    I leave it others to work the subtext of that statement.

    “Dead dogma” in spades.



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  • Stafford Gordon Nov 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I speak as one who has been told by a Catholic priest that he felt sorry for me because I didn’t believe in anything.

    . . . .A bit like a drug addict who cannot grasp that other people don’t need a next fix!



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  • The Catholic Church is refusing to accept “liability” for long-term sex abuse that went on at the Mirfield Junior Seminary, despite paying out £120,000 to eleven victims of child sex abuse.

    This is the pure evil of catholic church sexual abuse. The act of the abuse, and the subsequent denial. It has happened worldwide. They need to proclaim Mea Culpa, an admission of guilt. That they continue to deny and defend, is indefensible. That people still attend any catholic church, transfers the stain to every practicing catholic in the world. Boycott the catholic church until to behaves in the manner of an ethical and moral citizen of the planet.

    Australia has had a Royal Commission in the child sexual abuse with this sort of stuff as daily headlines. Governments world wide need to commission similar high powered enquiries.

    The now infamous case of the brilliant lawyer and sex abuse survivor John Ellis before the child sex abuse royal commission has laid bare for the first time not just the Sydney Catholic archdiocese’s wealth but the cold, dark heart of its handling of child sex abuse complaints.

    The three-week hearing before Justice Peter McClellan has demonstrated in excruciating detail the exercise of power, against a vulnerable man, at the highest levels of the church and of the law in Sydney.

    Cardinal George Pell, who on evidence before the commission called all the shots in the Ellis case, takes up a new job running the Vatican’s finances on Monday.

    The now infamous case of the brilliant lawyer and sex abuse survivor John Ellis before the child sex abuse royal commission has laid bare for the first time not just the Sydney Catholic archdiocese’s wealth but the cold, dark heart of its handling of child sex abuse complaints.

    The three-week hearing before Justice Peter McClellan has demonstrated in excruciating detail the exercise of power, against a vulnerable man, at the highest levels of the church and of the law in Sydney.

    Cardinal George Pell, who on evidence before the commission called all the shots in the Ellis case, takes up a new job running the Vatican’s finances on Monday.



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  • The Catholic Church is refusing to accept “liability” for long-term sex abuse that went on at the Mirfield Junior Seminary, despite paying out £120,000 to eleven victims of child sex abuse.

    It seems ethical and competent financial management is not a subject enhanced by “faith-thinking”!

    http://www.economist.com/node/21560536

    OF ALL the organisations that serve America’s poor, few do more good work than the Catholic church: its schools and hospitals provide a lifeline for millions.
    Yet even taking these virtues into account, the finances of the Catholic church in America are an unholy mess.
    The sins involved in its book-keeping are not as vivid or grotesque as those on display in the various sexual-abuse cases that have cost the American church more than $3 billion so far; but the financial mismanagement and questionable business practices would have seen widespread resignations at the top of any other public institution.

    The sexual-abuse scandals of the past 20 years have brought shame to the church around the world. In America they have also brought financial strains.
    By studying court documents in bankruptcy cases, examining public records, requesting documents from local, state and federal governments, as well as talking to priests and bishops confidentially, The Economist has sought to quantify the damage.

    The picture that emerges is not flattering.
    The church’s finances look poorly co-ordinated considering (or perhaps because of) their complexity. The management of money is often sloppy. And some parts of the church have indulged in ungainly financial contortions in some cases—it is alleged—both to divert funds away from uses intended by donors and to frustrate creditors with legitimate claims, including its own nuns and priests.
    The dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy may not be typical of the church as a whole. But given the overall lack of openness there is no way of knowing to what extent they are outliers.

    Thousands of claims for damages following sexual-abuse cases, which typically cost the church over $1m per victim, according to lawyers involved, have led to a liquidity crisis.
    This seems to have encouraged a pre-existing trend towards replacing dollars from the faithful with publicly raised debt as a way of financing church business.
    The church is also increasingly keen to defend its access to public health-care subsidies while claiming a right not to provide certain medical services to which it objects, such as contraception.
    This increased reliance on taxpayers has not been matched by increased openness and accountability. The church, like other religious groups in America, is not subject to the same disclosure requirements as other non-profits or private entities.



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  • 5
    Light Wave says:

    Why are ‘they’ allowed to deny liability…they employed the paedophiles and enabled them and covered them up and shielded them….but they cant deny their crimes even retrospectively if a priest escapes justice by dying…the RC church are totally undeniably liable…..The current case in UK with high level politicians and a whole lot more people implicated in a ring of paedo’s just shows how far they will go to protect the guilty by delaying and repeated botching by the gov’ of the person to head the investigation….the sheer scale and collusion implication corruption cover up guilt and connection in high places and at many high level institutions in UK is disgusting and astounding…



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  • @Light Wave

    I don’t know about your jurisdiction, or anywhere else in the world, but in Australia, the catholic church is immune from law suit as a result of the Ellis Defence.

    When John Ellis tried to sue the church over the abuse he suffered when he was an altar boy in the 1970s, the courts rejected the claim, ruling the Church was not a legal entity, nor was it liable for abuse committed by a priest.

    This is the Ellis Defence, outlined by Ellis’ QC.

    Andrew Morrison SC, who represented John Ellis, says the ruling continues to have repercussions.

    ANDREW MORRISON: No legal entity capable of being sued, and its trustees who held the property of one of the wealthiest organisations in the country, are effectively immune from suit. That is the Ellis defence.

    There are other problems as well. The Court of Appeal also held that because priests are technically not employed by the Church – that is, they are primarily paid by way of a stipend from the parish – they are therefore not the subject of vicarious liability, which means that the Church cannot be held liable for their conduct or misconduct

    The “No Legal Entity” is a reference to the fact that the Catholic Church exists only as a series of parishes and has not overall governing entity, responsible for the affairs of the church in Australia.

    The current of head of Vatican Finance, Australian Cardinal George Pell instructed his lawyers to:-

    Cardinal George Pell instructed his lawyers to crush this victim (Ellis)

    And further.

    Cardinal George Pell (as head of the Sydney Catholic archdiocese) instigated the archdiocese’s legal battle against the former altar boy John Ellis, according to evidence and documents presented to Australia’s child-abuse Royal Commission in March 2014. Pell’s legal victory in 2007 (known as the “Ellis defence”) now forces church-victims to accept a discounted in-house “Towards Healing” settlement instead of suing for proper compensation, the Commission was told. And this Broken Rites article demonstrates that John Ellis was not the only victim of his abuser, Sydney priest Father Aidan Duggan.

    The Catholic Church, and religion in general, claim the moral high ground on planet earth. Anyone, who is at all wavering about morality and ethics, need read no more, to form a view as to the guardians of ethics and morality, especially if you have read any of Hitchens, Dawkins, Graying and others. The Catholic church has no clothes.



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  • Cardinal Pell ! The very same imbecile who thought that humans were descended from Neanderthals ! So much for that Holy Hot line to God or belief in evolution.

    There is a saying in the Bible that anyone who hurts a child should be thrown into sea with a rock attached. Whilst I am one against taking human life, occasionally my view is challenged. Luckily no priest ever got near any of my offspring, and I never felt the need to be a vigilante.



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  • 8
    Light Wave says:

    This makes my blood boil…paedophile priests are criminal individuals as well and could be tried as such…if the church is protecting them or has protected a known criminal then the catholic individuals of the RC church should be tried No one is above the law !…….Aren’t they always ramming that down peoples throats….there must be a way around this….The RC church claim to be one entity at all other times except for in cases of their liability…they have friends in Judicial places that’s the problem Alan….we can all see the injustice ….why cant a bloody decent judge…Pell is spawn from Hell …metaphorically speaking..



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  • This issue seems to me more than other to be reason enough for the average Cafeteria Catholics to say ‘this is not bloodly good enough I’m outa here’. I’ve never been able to understand why they hang on.



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  • 11
    Miserablegit says:

    This is what happens when you have any organisation which thinks itself to be above the law, until a country enforces its own national laws over the RCC and treats it like the criminal organisation it is then this will continue to occur.



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  • If the government(s) won’t do it, what we need is for a seriously rich philanthropist, like Bill Gates, to fund a concerted “root and branch” pursuit of the original perpetrators, and then their supervisors, and their supervisors as far up the tree as the evidence points.
    Look for the patterns i.e. one would imagine that pedophiles are (on average) moved around from parish to parish more often than normals. If the evidence supports this hypothesis strongly enough, it speaks to conspiracy. It also might hint at fresh investigations worthy of pursuit.
    Amass the evidence, pursue convictions, keep at it, until those in power who protect the RCC cease to do so for fear of their own necks being on the line, and scurry for cover. Treat it like a RICO investigation, trying to prove the existence of organised crime; for that is exactly what it is, it is criminal and it is organised.

    We know what pedophiles are like, they’re sick, hard-wired wrong somehow; usually they’re beyond shame, and don’t see they’ve done anything wrong.
    But what of the supervisors, administrators, the peers of the perpetrators, the senior clergy, and various lawyers and law clerks, and law enforcement officers etc. etc. who conspire to protect them and enable them to continue?
    What’s their defence? The Nuremberg Defence (I’m just doing my job)? Do these people have no shame or conscience? Are they sociopaths?



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  • Although it seems like there is more that can be done, a lot has been done, within the law, to individuals. Reading the comments on this thread is misleading, I am afraid. There are separate issues here and they can be identified here. The church has payed out over a billion dollars so far and people HAVE been prosecuted WITHIN the law. The church as an institution is a different case of course.



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  • I am not arguing against that but, the devil is in the detail, as it were. I believe things should be argued per case and it does no good to generalise, especially when a group is against the religion as a whole. The argument could be lost within that context alone and just as easily dismissed.



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  • Olgun Nov 16, 2014 at 7:51 am

    especially when a group is against the religion as a whole. The argument could be lost within that context alone and just as easily dismissed.

    Dismissing an argument of substance, because of an alleged, or perceived bias, in those presenting it, is one of the irrational features of “faith-thinking”!
    Style or affiliation over substance, is not a method of arriving at objective answers.



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  • The fix is ritual forgiveness. With it you can force children into sex, and be absolved to repeat next week.

    People pay the church to perform a bit of magic to forgive them their sins. The church makes its money by making people think they have sinned when they have harmed no one e.g. (masturbated, had an impure thought about Oprah) and by forgiving serious crimes.

    The lasting harm done by a crime is completely unaffected by priestly magic. Absolution is a fraud.



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  • I learnt a long time ago Olgun that debates on religious belief are futile.

    We’re at liberty to believe what ever we chose, but that doesn’t make our beliefs true.

    All that matters, is that which can be falsified or verified.

    Religion can’t be subjected to any such scrutiny, because it’s profoundly subjective, and open to almost limitless interpretation and exploitation by unscrupulous individuals.

    That’s what makes it so dangerous; indeed, I think it’s the worst self-inflicted wound humanity suffers.

    It has only been surpassed in its harmful effects by Fascism and Communism.

    And those two dogmas could never have taken hold over peoples minds if orthodox dogmatic habits hadn’t been installed in youth.

    I haven’t reached that conclusion out of choice, or belief, but by means of studying the evidence.

    For what it’s worth Olgun, my advice is, at all costs resist accepting received ideas without question.



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  • Anything to increase numbers it would seem Alan4.

    Muslim men are permitted to take as many wives as they choose; I think Bin Laden had something in the region of sixty brothers and sisters; strictly speaking not siblings because they didn’t all have parents in common.

    In the UK, Protestant leaders induced emigration of their flock to the north of Ireland to out number the Catholics.

    It would appear that the “belief” exists that if enough people “believe” something it must be trues; witness, the vast majority of Muslims, 1.8 billion people, don’t “believe” in evolution by means of natural selection, therefore; it’s not true?.

    Perhaps secularists should get their rocks off more often; only they don’t because they know it would be dangerously irresponsible.

    Babies are easy to produce, creative ideas more difficult to generate.



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  • Stafford Gordon Nov 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Anything to increase numbers it would seem Alan4.

    When it comes to philandering preachers, some are particularly notable!

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/11/mormon-church-admits-founder-joseph-smith-40-wives

    Joseph Smith said he was ordered by an angel to adopt polygamy and took up to 40 wives, putting his first wife Emma through an ‘excruciating ordeal’
    The Mormon church has said that its founder, Joseph Smith, married about 40 women including a 14-year-old and others who were already the wives of his followers, having publicly portrayed him over the years as lovingly committed to one woman.



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  • I’m shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you. Wait…no, I’m not. They’ve been dodging responsibility for their atrocities for only about the last thousand years or so, so why should they start owning up now? How about the secular authorities just start arresting every cleric from the Pointy Hat guy on down? Fuck waiting around for the Vatican to do something about the perverts who work for them.



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  • Would we allow any other institution to get away with this?
    e.g. Boy Scouts, McDonalds, Cirque du Soleil, Montessori Schools, Outward Bound, Junior Hockey League…

    I have to ask why does the Church get a pass? Perhaps the law enforcers believe the superstition that God will punish them if they do.



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  • 30
    Cairsley says:

    “… the Catholic Church exists only as a series of parishes and has not overall governing entity, responsible for the affairs of the church in Australia.”

    Did Cardinal Pell really say that? Very smart if he did and got away with it, but it does leave one asking what his role is in the Catholic Church in Australia?! He has bluffed, and everyone seems to have fallen for it. He lied!

    Anyway, the Mirfield Junior Seminary case is different in that the priests in question were members of a religious congregation (of Comboni Missionaries), so the episcopal hierarchy is not responsible for their management. The money paid out to victims as part of out-of-court settlements has been paid out by the congregation. If the victims see the need for further redress, they will have to take the congregation to court.



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  • Well, it has to be remembered that the flocks of congregates are instructed that masturbation is a sin.

    Although, I dislike that word, it carries with it certain connotations; I prefer the term solo sex; which is also safe sex.

    And as someone once said “…nature cannot be fooled.”.



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  • Did Cardinal Pell really say that? Very smart if he did and got away with it, but it does leave one asking what his role is in the Catholic Church in Australia?! He has bluffed, and everyone seems to have fallen for it. He lied!

    Pell didn’t say it. But his lawyers argued the case right up through the appeals court and the court found that the Catholic Church in Australia consists of individual parishes. He instructed the lawyers to fight the case but the lawyers found the loop hole. The courts in Australia have very high integrity and no political appointments, unlike the US. Eminent jurists who decide the law on the law alone, so I trust that they got the law correct. I don’t like it, but that is the law in Australia. I’m surprised they haven’t tried in other jurisdictions.



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  • 33
    Aber ration says:

    “The Catholic Church is refusing to accept “liability” for long-term sex abuse ”

    I await the announcement from the Catholic church renouncing claims for all the good works carried out by it’s priests as well. Wouldn’t want them to benefit from actions they say they are “not liable for”.



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  • The Catholic Church is refusing to accept “liability” for long-term
    sex abuse that went on at the Mirfield Junior Seminary, despite paying
    out £120,000 to eleven victims of child sex abuse.

    Oh, goodness me!!!! the RCC is shooting itself in the foot and completely contradicting its own claims to the moral high ground again?!?!?!?!

    I’d feign surprise except exactly no one should be surprised. As many articles on this site alone that illustrate the horrible things the church is willing to cover up or outright deny is downright staggering. An then has the audacity to speak with any moral authority on such sexual issues as contraception, homosexuality, abortion is the height of hypocrisy.

    The seminary, which closed down in 1984, was run by the Verona Fathers
    (now known as the Comboni Missionaries) and saw sexual abuse
    perpetrated by priests against children as young as 11.

    Three Catholic priests of the Verona Fathers are said to have
    repeatedly abused boys in their care. Now twelve of their victims have
    joined together to campaign for justice. The former pupils have
    launched a website to share their experiences of the seminary, called
    Mirfield Memories, and to offer support for their fellow victims.

    The men’s efforts have led to many of their fellow pupils coming
    forward to describe their own experiences of abuse at the Mirfield
    Seminary.

    In a press release the “Mirfield 12″ describe some of the abuse they
    suffered at the hands of the Verona Fathers. One of three priests
    accused of abuse, Fr Pinkman, “used to bring boys, as young as 11 to
    his bedroom, to explain the facts of life to them and ask them to
    remove their clothes so that he could explain further. He went on to
    abuse many of them”.

    Can someone, anyone tell me why this is being allowed in any country? As has been mentioned here before if this were being done by someone outside the RCC clergy they would be arrested and put under the jail. Pedophilia and rape are pretty much universally despised but this so called sacred institution of a church is given some special pass purely due to influence wealth, and immeasurable stupidity on those that would defend them.

    No need to read any further, as I trust it will only make me angrier.



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  • 36
    inquisador says:

    Yes, good point Sagan. It’s a great gift from a beneficent God.

    Praise the Lord!

    … and pass the vaseline.

    This comment reported as inappropriate.



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  • 37
    Light Wave says:

    So if they were paedophile Teachers…the teachers authority would not be liable for their conduct…? and of course if they were teachers they would be tried and jailed for their individual crimes committed while under the protection of Schools authority.???



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  • 38
    Light Wave says:

    Cairsley…You said the congregation paid for the compensation to victims of RC priests child sex abuse…what what !!! RC church is one of the richest and largest land owning institutions in the world….The congregation are suckers but slightly more generous than Pell’s Church of Hell….



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  • 41
    Cairsley says:

    Thanks, David. Not living in Australia, I am not in touch with such cases there. Even so, if Cardinal Pell had a conscience, he should be blushing to the roots of his scalp to have his lawyers arguing in the courts that the Roman Catholic Church were something that might have been founded by John Calvin!



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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40439489

    Cardinal Pell: Vatican treasurer denies Australia sex offences

    Shockwaves – Hywel Griffith, BBC News Australia correspondent

    What are the charges?

    Victoria Police said they had made the decision to charge Cardinal Pell after receiving advice from prosecutors last month.

    “Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges and there are multiple complainants,” Deputy Commissioner Patton said.

    The cardinal would be required to face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 18 July, Deputy Commissioner Patton said.

    A magistrate will decide next week whether to release the details and the nature of the charges ahead of the cardinal’s court appearance.

    Cardinal Pell was questioned by Australian detectives in the Vatican last year after saying he was too unwell to take a long flight to Australia.

    Cardinal Pell is not just Australia’s most senior cleric, he is one of the highest-ranking officials in the Catholic world.

    For two decades, he has been a frontline figure in the Church’s debate over controversial issues such as homosexuality, Aids and stem cell research.

    He has also handled the Church’s official response to allegations of sexual abuse within its Australian ranks during a series of inquiries.

    When he gave evidence via video link to a Royal Commission into abuse last year, some abuse survivors flew all the way to Rome to watch.

    It is hard to overstate, therefore, the significance of the decision to press charges against him.

    When he returns to face those charges in an Australian court, every second will be scrutinised not just by the Australian press, but by members of Catholic congregations across the globe.

    What is the wider picture?

    The sexual abuse of children was rarely discussed in public before the 1970s, and it was not until the 1980s that the first cases of molestation by priests came to light, in the US and Canada.

    In the 1990s, revelations began of widespread abuse in Ireland and in the new century, more cases of abuse were revealed in more than a dozen countries.

    The UN has accused the Vatican of “systematically” adopting policies allowing priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.

    Since his election, Pope Francis has appeared to offer new hope to victims, with a call for action on sex abuse in the Church. Under his papacy, a Vatican committee has been set up to fight sexual abuse and help victims.

    In a report by Vatican Radio, the Pope asked for forgiveness for the “evil” damage to children caused by sexual abusers in the clergy and said “sanctions” would be imposed.

    Vatican officials submitted publicly to questioning for the first time in January 2013, before a UN panel in Geneva, but refused to supply data on abuse cases.

    Victims’ groups have responded to almost every move by the Vatican with scepticism.

    Cardinal Pell, 76, who is based in the Vatican, is considered the third-ranking official in the Holy See.

    He told a news conference at the Holy See that he would travel to Australia if his doctors permitted it.

    So we could see a recycling of that earlier excuse for dodging the questions, after hiding in the Vatican, with much trumpeting of innocence, and claims of being willing to testify!

    “I’m looking forward finally to having my day in court,” he said.

    “I am innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

    I think he might be having MORE than a day in court if he reaches trial in Australia!



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