Former De La Salle Revesby Student Awarded $1.5 Million for Child Sexual Abuse


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Former De La Salle Revesby Student Awarded $1.5 Million for Child Sexual Abuse

On 5 October 2018, the Supreme Court of New South Wales entered Judgment in favour of a Plaintiff who was the victim of child sexual abuse in the amount of $1,548,488.75 plus costs.


The Judgment was adopted from the findings of former Judge of the District Court of New South Wales and Justice of the ACT Supreme Court, Ms Margaret Sidis. Also, Ms Sidis was appointed through the Court’s referral process (20.14 to 20.24 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005). In addition she was appointed as a Referee to assess the quantum of damages of the Plaintiff’s claim.

For the purposes of the referral, it was accepted that there was a breach of duty of care. Additionally, that the breach caused the Plaintiff loss and damages.

The Plaintiff was the victim of prolonged and horrific sexual and physical abuse. This occurred when he was a student (Year 6) at De La Salle College, Revesby Heights in the early 1980’s. He was only 11 to 12 years of age. The abuse was perpetrated by his class teacher, Mr Errol Swain. Swain died in November 1985 after being exposed as a serial paedophile.

Mr Swain had also taught religious studies and was even allowed by the Principal to live on the School’s premises in a caravan. There have been numerous other allegations of physical and sexual abuse made by students against Mr Swain. In fact, these going back to when he was a teacher at De La Salle, Bankstown in the 1960’s.

The Referee assessed each head of damage as follows:


Non-Economic Loss (assessed at 50% of a Most Extreme Case) $306,500
Past Economic Loss $474,462
Past Superannuation Loss $52,191
Interest on Past Economic Loss $189,595
Future Income Loss $405,420
Future Superannuation Loss $50,427
Past Medical Expenses $10,988.75
Future Medical Expenses $58,905

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The Referee’s reasoning offers much needed guidance in assessing personal injury damages for victims of childhood sexual and physical abuse.

Firstly, the Referee found that the physical abuse the Plaintiff was subjected to was connected to the sexual abuse and warranted consideration in her determination of non-economic loss. She found that the physical abuse, which consisted of strappings with a 30-cm long strap made of three layers of thick leather, was a means of isolating the Plaintiff in the pretext of allowing him to recover. Specifically Mr Swain would utilise the opportunity to sexually abuse the Plaintiff under the guise of comforting the Plaintiff.

Surviving Institutional abuseThis was previously a point of contention as the Defendants submitted that the physical abuse wasn’t serious enough to be considered in the assessment of damages as it was a normalised form of discipline. The Referee dismissed this argument. In doing so, acknowledged the evidence of the Defendant’s expert psychiatrist that Mr Swain was a “brutal teacher with a sadistic nature”.

The Referee considered that the Plaintiff was left traumatised by the abuse from an authority figure acting on the instruction of the Catholic School. As a result, he lost faith, trust and self-esteem. He experienced guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, nightmares and vivid flashbacks.

Loss of Earning Capacity

When determining the Plaintiff’s loss of earning capacity, the Referee found that had it not been for the abuse, he would have achieved better outcomes academically and been afforded the opportunity to attain university qualifications.

She found that the evidence established that the Plaintiff had the intellectual capacity to achieve a higher level of education. The deficiencies in his schooling at the School was a result of the sexual and physical abuse by Mr Swain. It was these deficiencies which prevented him from attaining the higher level of education that he was capable of achieving.

The Referee found that the Plaintiff, but for the abuse, would have had the capacity to earn 20% above the average weekly wage of male employees in New South Wales.
Also, the Referee allowed amounts for ongoing medical treatment needs including times of relapses in his condition.

Prolonged Abuse

The Plaintiff was subjected to a prolonged period of physical and sexual abuse. Subsequently this judgement has now provided justice.  Indeed, this occurred at a crucial time in his life when he was a vulnerable child. The long standing impact upon an individual is significant.

Child Sexual Abuse DamagesWe can only hope that the Judgment and Referee’s findings and reasons pave the way for victims of historic child sexual abuse.  Therefore victims may get the justice they deserve.

The Plaintiff who wishes to remain private stated that he was very pleased with the outcome. He felt vindicated for pursuing his claim, although it has been a difficult time. Additionally he added that he hoped that he may have helped any other former students or victims who were abused by Swain. Also, to aid them in their fight for justice and accountability.

Koffels Solicitors & Barristers are proud of the work we do and the groundbreaking results we obtain for our clients. If you are a victim of institutional child sexual abuse, we believe we can give you the support and advice on obtaining proper compensation for which victims are truly entitled. Please do not hesitate to contact us on our secure encrypted form. Alternatively you may contact Mr Koffel confidentially on 02 9283 5599.

All enquiries are held in the strictest confidence.
Ross Koffel
Sydney, Australia

Please read our article Child Sexual Abuse Can Occur Anywhere and Sexual Abuse in  Institutions.


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ABC 7:30 Report – De La Salle College & Institutional Sex Abuse

To this end, Koffels Solicitors & Barristers have made substantial headway into providing support and compensation for those individuals who have suffered through sexual abuse. Due to the fact we are working with victims on a regular basis, we see first hand and understand the incredible impact that this abuse has on the life of an individual.

In many cases the offences were brought to the attention of superiors yet no action was taken against these predators. The very real difficulties so far in life that have arisen as a direct result of the abuse will form part of the compensation that we will seek on your behalf. For a private and confidential conversation with Mr Koffel to discuss your experience and the possibility of a claim, please contact us using our secure and private online form here or to be sure call Ross on 02 9283 5599.

Adrian Nisbett, Bruce Barrett, Barrie Stewart, Damien Vance, Roger James, Craig Treloar, Christopher Fotis, CR (Stumbo) Thomas, Kane Berman at Knox Grammar. Michael Nejame, Nejame and Brother Kinsella at Waverley College Sydney. Brother Paschal at Mary Immaculate Church Waverley. Brother Roger ‘Gabriel’ Mount and Brother Mathew O’Donnell at St John of God Boys Home, Greensborough. Dennis Twomey at De La Salle, Ashfield. Robert ‘Dolly Dunn (AKA Mathews Dolly) at St Dominic’s College Penrith and Marist Brothers Penhurst. Brother Raymond Foster. Gregory (Greg) Hammond at Marist Brothers Penhurst. Brother Michael Hill (Provincial) and Brother Kostka Chute, Mt Penang Training School, Woorimi Shelter, Minda Remand Centre, Reiby Youth Justice Centre, Daruk Boys Home, Mittagong Farm Home, Metropolitan Girls Shelter, Bidura, Cobham Remand Centre, Kendall Grange school, Leslie Wilson detention centre/Wilson, Youth Hospital, Carramar children’s home, Enoggera Boys Home, Westbrook Detention Centre, The John Oxley Youth Detention Centre, Boystown, Scarborough Lodge, WA, Bunbury Catholic Diocese, John “Check it” Beckett, Bruce Clark, Father Kevin Johnston, Br Paul Smith, Br Bill Firman, Brother Bernard McGrath, East Hills Boys High School, Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School, St Marys, Preshil Secondary School, All Souls St Gabriels School Charters Towers, Murray Farm Public School, Patrician Brothers Blacktown, St Leo’s Wahroonga, Turana Youth Training Centre, Daruk Training School, Minali, Frank Gilson House, Sir Leslie Wilson Detention Centre, Richard (Dick) Feenstra, John McMillan, David Hilder, Fr Terrence Sullivan, Br Martin Harmate, John Millard, Fr Ron Barry, Brad McCormack, Dom Finlay, Peter Longley, Brother Johnson

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Comments (19)

  • Arthur F King Reply

    Hi – only if you were around when the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, Assault, Harassment, Sexual Rap into Child Orphanages, Institutions, Welfare, Homes, Foster Care, Placing & other places would us people get a fair go.

    June 6, 2021 at 9:05 pm
    • identicon
      Koffels Reply

      Hi Arthur

      Thank you for your comment.

      You do not need to be part of the Royal Commission to receive compensation. You can make a claim directly against the person who abused you or the institution that failed to protect you.

      The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was concluded in December 2017. Royal Commissions make recommendations to the government about what should change. They do not provide financial payment directly to the survivors of abuse.

      For all survivors of child abuse, there are different ways of receiving compensation, depends on everyone’s circumstances.

      We encourage all survivors of child abuse to contact a lawyer who specialises in child abuse compensation.

      If you would like to know your rights and entitlements, please feel free to give us a call on 02 9283 5599 or visit our website to arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced sexual abuse lawyers.

      June 10, 2021 at 2:27 pm
  • Poor Attempts at Compensation - Koffels Solicitors and Barristers Reply

    […] Damages for victims of institutional child sexual abuse and/or institutional violence are tailored amounts relevant to the impact of the abuse suffered by each victim. These amounts include pain and suffering, lost wages, requirements for treatment and, in rare cases, amounts for a need arising for domestic assistance. It is almost always preferable to obtain justice through a damages action as opposed to the Redress Scheme. […]

    June 17, 2020 at 4:59 pm
    • Anthony Reply

      Civil action through a great firm like Koffels is the only way to obtain compensation. 95% of the time, Mediation will have the required result in respect to compensation. The Redress Scheme is problematic at best, the maximum payout of $150K is $50K below what the Royal Commission suggested. My payout was almost 3 times the maximum of the Redress Scheme and how many have actually received $150K. My payout included Costs too. The Catholic Church and Catholic Church Insurance would love the Redress scheme. Marist, Christian and De La Sale Brothers are all liable and accountable for historical child sexual abuse and we are lucky to have the dedication of Ross Koffel and his Team to represent the Survivors.

      October 20, 2020 at 3:18 pm
  • Brian Norman Reply

    I went to De La Salle Revesby, brother George was one of my teachers, this was from 1960-67.
    I witnessed, along with the rest of my class, who were made to stand up and watch. A friend Gerard Bonk, unfortunate name, had refused to put his hand out for the strap. The principal Brother Dunstan was sent for. He rushed into the room. Strap in hand, grabbed Gerard, pushed him into a corner. He beat him all over his body. Gerard had slid down onto the floor. Snpt oozing from his nose, sobbing. We were terrified. I cannot ever forget this abuse. Terrifying. I am now 68 years old.

    May 24, 2020 at 10:32 am
    • Margaret Harvey Reply

      Brian Norman, I am Gerards sister , Margaret. I am so sad to hear this happened to my brother. I am also sad that this has been in your head for such a long time.

      June 6, 2020 at 7:58 pm
  • A former De La Salle Revesby student has been awarded $1.5 million for child sex abuse. ~ Kindness Reply

    […] Source- Cut and pasted fromhttps://koffels.com.au/student-awarded-1-5-million-sexual-abuse/ […]

    May 17, 2020 at 7:52 pm
  • What is a Destroyed Life Worth - Koffels Solicitors and Barristers Reply

    […] to our client, This figure is not inclusive of the costs which were paid in addition to this amount (see details here). We are exceptionally proud of this achievement and standing amongst our […]

    October 9, 2019 at 2:57 pm
  • jason mccauley Reply

    Things weren’t much better in the early 80’s either…with the likes of Brophy (Cormac),
    Brothers Peter, Alphonso, Ignatius, Gregory, Stan and Raymond…. Staff like Steve Grey, Jane Bell, Aileen Ahern, thrown into the mix. We didn’t stand a chance. I am 51 now and I still haven’t come to terms with what happened at Boystown. It has effected every facet of my life. Denied redress because I was in prison, it took another victim to convince me to give Koffels a go….

    The most genuine and down to earth bunch of lawyers Ive ever known….

    August 28, 2019 at 5:28 pm
    • No name by request. Reply

      Jason, I see you named Bro Cormac (Brophy) in your email of 28 Aug 2019.
      I knew Cormac (Brophy) in the 1960s and have never forgotten him.
      If you would like to share any memories of him, I’d be appreciative.

      August 31, 2021 at 4:50 pm
  • Matthew McGrath Reply

    Dear Mr Koffel,
    I attended De La Salle Revesby from 1975 to 1981. My brother was in Mr Swains class but was unaware of the abuse when questioned by my parents at the time.

    I thank you very much for what you have done for the chap (Mr A.C ) who was a friend of my brothers. This coming from an retired police officer to a lawyer.
    Old Wally (Br Anslem) whilst I was in fifth class used to check our testicle with his hands every swimming day as you came in the door on the pretext that you may have had wet cosies on, he was a frightening man and my life at the school was a misery. I thank you very much for the part in what you have played to bring these monsters to judgement and the Roman Catholic Church to be dragged kicking and screaming into the daylight
    Thanking you.
    Yours sincerely
    Matt McGrath

    May 15, 2019 at 6:04 pm
  • Josh Reply

    Wow this is unbelievably sad I was sent to a De la salle run boys home and heard often from the bros about the private schools they ran and how lucky we were to be getting that level of education. Well I am saddened to now know that education included the same sorts or horrendous physical and sexual abuse I suffered. I know they just moved brothers to different schools/states and even countries to protect their own. I hope any parent will seriously consider that before sending any child into the care of the Catholic Church or it’s orders/institutions they have demonstrated reapeatedly they will protect their own not your child. My love goes out to the victims of this horrible abuse. If this has happened to you you can come forward you are not alone. We stand together united by our experience & ability to speak up and tell the horrors of our youth.

    April 16, 2019 at 4:39 pm
    • identicon
      Koffels Reply

      If we can assist you with a claim please telephone Ross Koffel on (02) 9283 5599.

      April 18, 2019 at 9:52 am
  • Anonymous Reply

    Swain taught at De Las Salle Bankstown in the 1960s and was forced to leave due to molestation allegations there. A few years later they welcomed him back at Revesby.

    Swain attacked many boys, me included. It’s impossible to believe the school didn’t know, though they deny it.

    What is undeniable is that they let him indulge his sadistic violence on the boys every day.

    Our year five teacher was Protestant, so Swain had us every day for half an hour religion – had to be taught by a good Catholic! His version of religion was open violence and secret sexual abuse.

    Not all of us had our lives derailed as badly as the boy in this case but the evil Swain and De La Salle Revesby perpetrated haunts many old boys to this day.

    I don’t believe in any religion any more, but I hope he and Brother Michael are somewhere burning.

    March 25, 2019 at 10:05 am
    • identicon
      Koffels Reply

      We agree with your comments. We are aware of Swain teaching at Bankstown and that Brother Michael employed him at Revesby. Would like the opportunity to chat to you. Please call Ross Koffel on 02 9283 5599.

      March 25, 2019 at 3:40 pm
    • jokohsttison Reply

      I can tell you that yes they’re burning.

      March 11, 2020 at 5:55 am
  • Matthew Evans Reply

    The ‘Christian’ brothers at St Patrick’s College, Sutherland soenspent many years terrorising students with physical abuse. The strappings were brutal and traumatising. We lived in daily fear of their abuse.

    March 21, 2019 at 9:58 pm
    • identicon
      Koffels Reply

      Dear Matthew,

      We would be interested in discussing your comments. Please call Ross Koffel anytime on (02) 9283 5599.

      March 22, 2019 at 11:10 am
  • identicon
    Anonymous Reply

    Errol Swain at De La Salle Revesby and De La Salle Bankstown, Patrician Brothers Blacktown.

    February 20, 2019 at 3:53 pm

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