13 July 2023

Survivor of paedophile Maurice Van Ryn pushes for legal change to protect others

| Albert McKnight
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Van Ryn taunted his victims during compensation negotiations, as reported by The Daily Telegraph in October 2017. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Maurice Van Ryn featured on the front page of The Daily Telegraph in October 2017. Photo: Ian Campbell.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to child abuse.

While a survivor of a notorious child rapist continues to live with the scars of the abuse he suffered years ago, he hopes his recent win in a civil case will encourage the government to change the law to help others like him.

Last week, the NSW Supreme Court ordered the 68-year-old former CEO of Bega Cheese, Maurice Van Ryn, to pay one of his survivors $1.4 million in damages over the abuse forced on him but whether he will ever receive the money remains to be seen.

Under current laws, offenders can sell their assets and park them in superannuation, which is protected from legal claims.

Speaking to Region after the Supreme Court’s decision, the survivor described himself as a caring and passionate person who was always looking to help others, but also said he was struggling immensely.

“Honestly, I can’t even remember the last day I woke up without wishing I was dead,” he said.

“I’m wanting to cry 24/7, I’m so angry it’s not funny. For some weeks, I literally can’t get out of bed. I’ve struggled to keep any job, any boss I’ve had has triggered me and reminded me of everything … not that it’s their fault.

“But I’m not going to give up.”

Van Ryn pleaded guilty to and was convicted of committing several sexual assaults against the survivor when the latter, who is now aged in his late 20s, was 14 and 15.

The former CEO was sentenced to a total of 18 years’ jail with about 14 years’ non-parole over these and other sex offences committed against 10 children. He can be released on parole in April 2029.

But Van Ryn was effectively handed a 12-month non-parole period for the particular crimes committed against the survivor himself.

“I’m pretty sure I went and punched a few walls, to be honest,” the survivor said of his reaction to this news. “I was so angry and I still am.

“I feel like he got a better deal than I did. I feel like he won. I would probably do anything to not have my brain the way it is.”

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He said there were many reasons why he chose to pursue the civil case in the Supreme Court, including feeling he’d regret it if he didn’t and would spend his life thinking that Van Ryn “got away with everything”.

“You look at the number of victims that he had and I just think he deserves every bit of punishment possible,” he said.

“I was just sick of feeling like I was always a victim and wanted to take a little bit of control back.”

There was also another reason he pushed ahead – the legal loophole with superannuation.

Andrew Carpenter, of Websters Lawyers, the founder of Super for Survivors, said there had been a history of offenders selling their assets and adding it to their superannuation. There it becomes a protected asset and is exempt from legal claims.

Mr Carpenter said the Federal Government needed to change the legislation to enable survivors of childhood sexual assaults to access the superannuation of offenders.

“If an offender hides all their assets, any redress for a survivor is from a taxpayer’s expense,” he said.

“This change is hopefully going to act as a deterrent, but also to compensate survivors and ease the strain on the taxpayer.”

Mr Carpenter spoke in general terms and was not asked to comment on the Van Ryn case specifically, however the survivor said the situation was a motivating force.

“I just felt like someone had to try and fight that loophole and go through the process,” the survivor said.

Speaking after last week’s decision, the survivor’s grandmother said her grandson was a “beautiful person” and a “remarkably wonderful young man” who wanted to push ahead with the civil case even if he never saw a payout.

“By going ahead, it might make it easier to change the law regarding superannuation,” she said.

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The survivor’s solicitor, Jason Di Michiel of Premier Compensation Lawyers, said his team would be proceeding with the usual recovery routes regardless of the superannuation issue.

“Noting that Mr Van Ryn has seemingly managed to hide his money in super we hope the court decision assists the government in changing the laws to enable our client to obtain his compensation and ensuring in future that paedophiles cannot hide their money to avoid paying compensation to their victims,” Mr Di Michiel said.

While the survivor was grateful to his legal team, family and the judge, he said he still doesn’t feel like the case is over.

“I’m hopeful and feel supported, but at the same time disheartened, and I don’t really know how to explain it,” he said.

“I just want to see them change the super laws because I just feel like it will have a lot more of a positive impact than people realise.”

Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones was contacted for comment, but did not reply by time of publication.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, Lifeline 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline 1800 551 800. In an emergency call 000.

Original Article published by Albert McKnight on Riotact.

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