Pedophile Coogan’s trail of victims are still seeking redress

A notorious pedophile priest and teacher moved from school to school across Geelong for over two decades, it has been revealed, with some victims launching a fresh fight for compensation.

John Patrick “Jack” Coogan was a physical education teacher who abused schoolboys from as early as 1962 until into the 1980s.

A Geelong-based legal firm is now seeking witnesses to come forward for potential historical complaints against the deceased vile predator when he was at the Bell Park High School (BPHS), North Geelong High School (NGHS) and St Joseph’s College (SJC).

Arnold Thomas and Becker principal, Jodie Harris, said the firm believed there may have been more complaints made to BPHS about Coogan which were not acted upon during the early 1970s.

“If anyone has any information about Coogan, we urge them to get in contact with us.” she said.

One survivor, John*, was molested repeatedly at SJC between 1978 and 1981. In 1997 he received a meagre civil settlement for the abuse, as part of the Catholic Church’s ‘Melbourne response’ to abuse which awarded survivors payouts of as little as $17,000.

He said looking back he knows multiple students at “gym time” were being groomed with “sports massages”, but he had never told a soul.

John reopened his case with Arnold Thomas and Becker earlier this year and was awarded more than $1m in a milestone settlement.

Ms Harris said his win came after they had located a witness who had warned SJC about Coogan in 1976, but the school had allegedly not acted on the complaint.

Ms Harris said redress is not often the best option as once a person accepts redress that’s all they can ever get, but civil claims get on average $800,000.

“It is capped at $150,000 and it extinguishes peoples rights to make a civil claim,” she said.

Other survivors have also since reopened their cases relating to Coogan, including another SJC alumni who was sexually abused in Ocean Grove, and another who was abused for three years during primary school at SJC.

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