Australian abuse survivor awarded £406,000

A Judge in the Supreme Court of Australia has made a significant award to a claimant (Manny Waks – ‘Waks’) against his abuser, David Cyprys.   The abuse had occurred at Melbourne’s Yeshivah College.  Cyprys had several roles at the college, including caretaker, security guard, locksmith and martial arts instructor. He abused Waks for about two years, from when he was aged 15.

In 2013 a Melbourne jury found Cyprys guilty of five charges of rape against the same child. Following the jury’s decision, Cyprys pleaded guilty to a further 12 offences of child sexual abuse against other children.

While victims of Cyprys (including Waks) have previously sued the Yeshivah centre, Waks is the first victim to sue Cyprys directly. The damages awarded to Waks by Melbourne Supreme Court Justice Jacinta Forbes included AUS$200,000 (£101,000) in general damages, AUS $37,348 (£18,832) in medical and other expenses, and AUS$541,822 (£274,000) in loss of past and future earning capacity.

The judge found that the claimant had suffered significant psychological injury, saying:

“The occurrence of offending is such that by its occurrence it has led to hurt and humiliation and to psychiatric injury,” Her Honour said in her judgment. “He [Waks] describes days where he has a sense of paralysis and is unable to function at any level … Presently he contrasts times of being able to be productive giving him a sense of empowerment with other times of feeling futility and turmoil.”

The claimant had been diagnosed by medical experts as having suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, an adjustment disorder with depressed mood, major depression and polysubstance abuse/dependency.

The judge went on to award £274,000 for past and future economic loss.  This was assessed on the evidence of the claimant’s treating doctors, medical experts, and a forensic accountant. All of the evidence was unchallenged by Cyprys. An award for past and future medical costs was also made, in the sum of £31,000.

The claimant also sought an award of aggravated and/or exemplary damages. The iudge stated that exemplary damages are awarded to punish the defendant and should not be awarded in this case, as Cyprys had already been punished through the criminal justice system.  She also declined to make an award for aggravated damages, stating that the claimant’s suffering had not increased to a level where additional compensatory damages should be awarded.

The nature of the assaults involved inappropriate touching on up to 100 occasions, but no penetrative acts. The defendant tried to make submissions that the estimated number of assaults was over exaggerated, but as he had not filed a defence, the judge said that she could not take such any submissions he wished to make, into consideration.

The payment of £100,000 for general damages is not overly unusual in Australian claims involving sexual abuse.  The court was referred to two cases Eelrich v Leifer [2015] VSC 499 and P2 v D2 NSWC 84 where £150,000 had been awarded for general damages in each case.  In the case in hand, the judge held that Mr Waks was quite resilient in character, and that when assessing damages, each case turns on its own facts.

It is arguable that the award of £274,000 for past and future economic loss, is of much greater significance, both as an indicator of the upward nature of awards in abuse cases [as has been suggested by Australian legal commentators] –  but also as further evidence as to how the Court will almost always accept evidence of medical experts and accountants as to the effect abuse may have on an individuals earning capacity – where such evidence is unchallenged by expert evidence served by the opposing party.

It can only be surmised that the sums awarded may well have been different, if the defendant had obtained and relied on his own medical and accountant’s expert evidence.

One consequence of the abuse has been the establishment by Mr Waks of Kol v’Oz. Mr Waks is a core participant in the Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings investigation at  IICSA. Kol v’Oz is an organisation whose mission is to combat child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community by educating all stakeholders about the impacts of child sexual abuse.


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Written by James Chambers at BLM

james.chambers@blmlaw.com

 

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