Former geography teacher Neville Gilbert Betteridge was convicted of molesting one of his students in the 1970s. Now, Betteridge is reportedly seeking nearly $20,000 in legal fees from the very same student he formerly abused.
Betteridge worked at the Blue Mountains Grammar School in the early 1970s as a house master and geography teacher. Mark Wurth, one of Betteridge’s students, recalls the sexual abuse he was subjected to.
“He was coming into the dormitory through the infirmary ... and taking me from my bed back to his room,” Wurth said, adding that the teacher “was a very big drinker.”
In 2004, Betteridge was convicted of two counts of indecent assault on Wurth and was given a three-year suspended jail term.
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It wasn’t until 2011 that Wurth took further action, suing the Anglican Church Diocese, which ran the school at the time, and suing Betteridge for damages. When the church paid Wurth an out-of-court settlement, Wurth offered to withdraw his claim against Betteridge.
Instead of accepting the offer, however, Betteridge’s lawyers demanded that Wurth pay for Betteridge’s legal costs.
Wurth recalls thinking, “You’re joking, you know, like when does a victim pay a perpetrator’s costs?”
As they delved into the legal concerns of Betteridge’s claims, Wurth described feeling traumatized again. “It feels very similar to how I felt when he was abusing me as a kid. I got no control. I’m just made to do what he says, in effect. There’s nothing I can do.”
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The process is eating away at the settlement he was given by the Anglican Church; Wurth said that “it seems like the settlement was just here to feed the legal profession.”
The Anglican Church, for its part, is calling on Betteridge to drop his “absurd” claim against Wurth and spare Wurth “further anguish in court proceedings.” The Church also issued a statement in which it expressed its “total abhorrence of sexual misconduct or any form of abuse of abuse involving children.”
The statement went on to note that “it seems absurd there is now an action by the perpetrator to recover costs from the victim in relation to the separate claim made against him.”
Although Betteridge declined to comment, his barrister, Paul Glisson, stated that, “Mr. Wurth has been compensated by the Victim’s Compensation Tribunal and by the Church and he has decided to bring an action against a 70-year-old pensioner with no assets.”