State makes recovery claim to recoup compensation from serial abuser

Robert Morris was jailed in 2016 for abusing young boys in Cranbourne and Ringwood in the 1970s.

Robert Morris was jailed in 2016 for abusing young boys in Cranbourne and Ringwood in the 1970s.

The department has paid almost $9 million in compensation to the victims so far, with more expected to follow as further claims are made. Another four victims have since sued the department.

Morris, 74, was jailed for at least four years in 2016 for abusing six boys at schools in Ringwood and Cranbourne.

It is understood the department is seeking to determine whether Morris has a stake in property or assets listed under the names of other people.

The lawyer for the victims, Rightside Legal partner Michael Magazanik, said the multimillion-dollar cost of Morris’s “disgraceful conduct” had landed on the government but the figure would grow as more survivors came forward.

“It’s right and proper that every last dollar Morris has is taken from him and given to the men he abused as boys,” he said.

Mr Magazanik said the victims still suffered enormous pain and anguish.

“The survivors all support and applaud the government’s efforts to strip him of any wealth and assets he has. It should be done in every other abuse case where the abuser is still alive.”

Mr Magazanik said the state government could have stopped Morris from further offending at the start of his career because one mother reported her son’s abuse to the Education Department in 1967.

But instead of taking appropriate action Morris was “shuffled from school to school just like paedophile priests were shuffled around”.

The Education Department has confirmed it was following its policy of pursuing abusers for contributions to the compensation paid to survivors.

“The department is able to seek a contribution from the alleged abuser for any amount of compensation that is paid to the former student,” he said.

“In deciding whether to pursue an alleged abuser for contribution to compensation for survivors, the department considers a range of factors, including whether the alleged abuser has any funds and the impact on the victim.”

In his 2016 sentencing remarks, Victorian County Court judge Gerard Mullaly said Morris had left lifelong scars on six young boys he had sexually abused. The victims were young boys in primary school when the abuse occurred.

Judge Mullaly said one of the victims had developed a “debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder” and needed to wash repeatedly.

“He had been, up to your abuse, living an ordinary child’s life,” Judge Mullaly said.

The Education Department spokesman said there had been a “complete overhaul” of the way schools identified and responded to suspected child abuse in the decades since Morris had committed the crimes.

Benjamin is a state political reporter

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