Victims of convicted paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale are set to sue the Ballarat Catholic diocese in Australia.
On Tuesday, Judge Michael Rozenes sentenced Mr Ridsdale to an 8-year jail term with a minimum non-parole period of five years for the sexual abuse of 14 children during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The 80-year-old former priest is expected to die in prison serving his jail term.
Vivian Waller, counsel of the 20 people whom Mr Ridsdale victimised, said she has been instructed to file a lawsuit against the Diocese of Ballarat on the note that Mr Ridsdale remained a priest even after it was already known he was a sexual predator because of the church's deliberate negligence and cover-ups.
"(We'll be) noting indeed that the Archdiocese of Melbourne knew since 1975 that Ridsdale was a sexual offender and failed to report these matters to the police or even to take Ridsdale out of circulation and contact with children," she said.
The class suit would be the acid test against Cardinal George Pell and his commitment to make the church more receptive of sexual abuse litigations.
"Victims are tiring of going to the church cap-in-hand asking for handout," Ms Waller said.
"I would call on the Catholic Church of Australia to adopt a unified approach and put out a statement so that victims know where they stand and just simply say we will no longer rely on the Ellis defence."
Notorious Mr Ridsdale abused 53 children in all as he enjoyed the protection of the Catholic church which just moved him from parish to parish throughout his career. His victims included parishioners' children, wards of the state, altar servers, twin brothers and a girl as young as four years old.
He got defrocked only in 1993.
"There is no doubt your conduct plummets to the depths of evil hypocrisy," Mr Rozenes said as he laid down the verdict on Mr Ridsdale. "Your conduct has given rise to disastrous, catastrophic and at times tragic results."
If the class suit against the Ballarat Catholic diocese succeeds, the church will have to pay out millions in compensation.
''I hope that the Archdiocese of Ballarat will abide by the indication of George Pell that the church won't employ certain defences to defeat sexual abuse claimants,'' Ms Waller said.