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Belgian bishop told to pay damages to victim of paedophile priest

A Belgian court on Thursday ordered the Archbishop of Brussels to pay 10,000 euros in damages to a former choir boy subjected to sexual abuse by a priest.

The plaintiff Joel Devillet, now 42, was raped by a priest in southern Belgium between 1987 and 1991. The earliest abuse happened when he was 14 years old and has left him with serious psychological problems.

In 1996 the victim denounced his violator in front of an internal tribunal of the Belgian Catholic Church, which advised him to seek therapy.

Devillet failed in a bid to get a criminal conviction and so launched, and won, a civil suit claiming damages from the priest involved.

He also filed a suit to demand compensation from Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, the Primate of Belgium, who at the time of the abuse was in charge of the central Namur diocese.

The Liege court of appeal on Thursday said the bishop, who will hand his resignation to the pope when he reaches the maximum permitted age of 75 next month, did not take sufficient measures to deal with the abusive priest, and was told to pay the 10,000 euros ($10,800) to Devillet.

Belgium was hit by a huge paedophile scandal involving the Catholic Church in 2010 when former Bruges bishop Roger Vangheluwe admitted to sexually abusing two of his nephews.

His case led to thousands of people coming forward to tell of sexual abuse at the hands of Belgian priests.

“It is some satisfaction. I’ve waited nine years for this. I was bound to win,” Devillet said on television.

The Belgian Primate has 15 days to appeal.