Adam Kneale and his lawyer Michael Magazanik, partner at the law firm Rightside Legal, will be available:
At 2.45 pm today, Thursday November 9
At Rightside Legal, level 5, 533 Little Lonsdale Street
A Supreme Court jury has awarded $5,943,151 to a man who was sexually abused as a child by a paedophile ring associated with the Western Bulldogs (then the Footscray Football Club).
The sum is the largest awarded by a jury to an abuse survivor in Australia and the first against an AFL club.
Adam Kneale, now aged 51 was regularly abused for five years from 1984, when he was 12, by Graeme Hobbs, a member of the club’s fundraising committee and a staffer with the under 19s.
The abuse occurred dozens of times in the club’s offices on match days and on a cheer squad trip to Sydney.
Mr Kneale lived locally and had gone to the ground as a spectator – where he was groomed and then assaulted repeatedly by Hobbs who had access to the club’s facilities, and to tickets which he gave local boys.
Hobbs, a convicted paedophile who later pleaded guilty to abusing Mr Kneale and is now dead, was part of a paedophile ring and gave Mr Kneale to other men to abuse.
Mr Kneale was awarded $3,250,00 for pain and suffering, $2,605,578 for lost earnings, and $87,573 for medical expenses.
Mr Kneale’s lawyer, Rightside Legal partner Michael Magazanik, says the club ignored warnings about Hobbs.
“Junior players described him as “sleazy”, “a dirty old man” and a “weird unit” yet he was allowed to access the change rooms where there were naked junior players, nobody stopped him pointing his camera at naked or semi-naked players, and he was given free licence to groom child spectators.
“And then somehow, he was able to rape this child over and over during the third quarter on match days.”
“But that’s only part of the story.
“In February 1993 the police visited the club and told them a child had been raped on the premises by a Footscray volunteer who was to be charged with sex offences.
"And in May 1994 an article about Hobbs and his use of the football club to commit crimes appeared on the front page of the local Footscray paper.
“Yet the club and its senior staff never once tried to identity Adam or reach out to help him.
For almost 30 years the club did absolutely nothing. “And then when Adam sued the club last year it fought him every step of the way.
The club now has six million reasons to regret its abysmal behaviour stretching back to the early 1980s.”
Senior members of the Bulldogs team – including lawyer and former CEO Dennis Galimberti and lawyer and former President, Peter Gordon (who is also distantly related to Mr Kneale) – both told the court they did not know about the police visit to the club in 1993 or about the front-page article in the Western Times in 1994.
Mr Kneale says he does not accept that nobody at the Western Bulldogs knew about the abuse in the early 1990s when the police went to the club.
“I don’t believe that for a second. My belief is that the people who knew stuck their heads in the sand. They didn’t care about me.”
Mr Kneale, who went to the police about Hobbs in 1993, said his life-long mental health struggles had delayed his effort to hold the Western Bulldogs to account.
“It took me more than 30 years to do this, and I’ve done it for the other victims. I know there were others – and I wanted to make the path easier for them.
“Nothing can give me back the life I should have had. You get one shot at life and the Bulldogs robbed me of mine. But this result gives me some satisfaction.”
Rightside Legal is also aware of other survivors associated with abuse at Footscray Football Club, and other AFL clubs. Earlier this year Rightside Legal acted for a woman abused by former AFL legend Barry Cable.
Michael Magazanik, partner, Rightside Legal 0403 367 608
Andrew Taylor 0411 156 797
Rightside Legal has unique expertise in litigating child abuse cases in Australia despite the challenges presented by institutions and churches, and the passing of time. In recent years Rightside Legal has set legal precedents: winning the first trial for a survivor of sexual abuse in Western Australia; the first trial win against the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne; and the first cases in Western Australia and Victoria to overturn previous settlements in sexual abuse cases. After decades of being denied justice, survivors are now being properly supported late in their lives. Rightside Legal has also set records, with multi-million-dollar settlements for former students in private and government schools and orphanages. Not all cases set records, not every case is a first, but every case matters.
Media inquiries: Andrew Taylor, 0411 156 797