Over $2 million has been awarded to a victim of sexual abuse by the Supreme Court of Victoria. The abuse was perpetrated by a volunteer, Mr Palframan, between 1988 and 1990, while the Plaintiff was a student at Geelong College.
The abuse occurred in the “House of Guilds”, which was a building on the school grounds where woodwork and ceramics was undertaken. Mr Palframan was not an employee of Geelong College - he was an honorary member of the House of Guilds and would attend 3 or 4 times a week on a voluntary basis, to assist students with their projects. The Plaintiff claimed that when he was in Year 8 he was groomed and then repeatedly abused by Mr Palframan at the House of Guilds, in Mr Palframan’s car and at his home, and on a couple of occasions, at the Plaintiff’s own home. The College did not deny that the abuse had occurred, or that the abuse had resulted in significant injuries to the Plaintiff. Mr Palframan was deceased several years before these proceedings commenced.
As a result of the abuse, the Plaintiff suffered significant psychological injuries, affecting every aspect of his life. He experienced difficulties with travel, inability to cope with difficult or stressful situations (particularly in an employment context), lack of confidence and weight related issues. He had been unable to work since 2019 and the evidence suggested he would have difficulty returning to paid employment in the future.
The court found that Mr Palframan was not an employee of the College and therefore the College was not vicariously liable for his criminal acts. However, the evidence of another witness who had also been a student at the same time was that he had reported incidents of abuse to himself and other students, perpetrated by Mr Palframan. The College did nothing in response, despite this knowledge. The system of supervision implemented by the College was inadequate. The Plaintiff was successful and the Court ordered the College to pay the Plaintiff’s damages in the sum of $2,632,319.
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