Western Bulldogs ordered to pay child sex abuse victim $5.9m in damages

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A Supreme Court jury has awarded child sex abuse victim Adam Kneale $5.9 million in damages after finding the Western Bulldogs Football Club were negligent in protecting him from harm.

Kneale launched Supreme Court action against the Western Bulldogs, formerly Footscray, seeking damages for the abuse he endured from age 11 by former fundraising committee member Graeme Hobbs.

Adam Kneale is seeking damages from the Bulldogs.Credit: Neil Newitt

Kneale reported Hobbs to police in 1993, aged 21, which led to his abuser and another man being jailed.

A jury on Thursday awarded Kneale $3.35 million for pain and suffering, $2.6 million in loss of earnings and $87,500 for future medical expenses.

Kneale embraced his legal team after the verdict, while his family could be seeing wiping tears.

The club was also ordered to pay more than $10,000 to Medicare and Kneale’s legal costs.

“Mr Kneale, you have my very best wishes for your future. I don’t underestimate how difficult this has been for you. I hope this process has helped you heal in some way,” Justice Melinda Richards said.

Among the claims aired in court were that Hobbs, once recognised in the Bulldogs’ annual reports for his services to the club as a “jack of all trades” and “room steward” for the under-19 team, used club facilities during training nights, on match days, and an interstate football trip to sexually abuse a young boy over seven years.

It was also alleged that Hobbs gave game day tickets to boys who sat with him in the John Gent Stand.

During the trial, former Footscray president Peter Gordon denied knowing a club volunteer had been jailed for sexually abusing a young boy on club grounds and claimed he only became aware of Hobbs’ crimes when a journalist contacted the club in April last year.

Gordon also denied ever being made aware of a front page newspaper article, published in May 1994, which revealed Hobbs had pleaded guilty to sexually abusing Kneale when he was 12 behind the Western Oval grandstand.

Gordon said he was also never told about a conversation a police officer had with the club’s then finance manager in February 1993 when Hobbs was arrested about the potential impact it would have on the club and that other victims might come forward.

Gordon, who is also related to Kneale, said he would have contacted him if he was aware of the abuse.

When the case was first launched, Michael Magazanik, a partner with Rightside Legal, predicted Kneale would be the first of many to sue an AFL club over childhood abuse with other publicised cases of child abusers being in senior positions with little league teams in the 1970s.

With AAP.

Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

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