Institutional News

LIMITATION PERIODS ABOLISHED IN CHILD ABUSE CASES

The Labour Government is to be commended for abolishing limitation periods in child abuse cases. Hopefully this is the first of a tranch of legislative amendments to be introduced which will make it easier for victims of child abuse to pursue civil claims for damages in the courts.

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COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO COMMIT TO NATIONAL REDRESS SCHEME BUT VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT COMMITS TO REDRESS.

The Commonwealth Government chose to submit a 4 page document (http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/policy-and-research/redress/submissions-on-redress-and-civil-litigation) in which it essentially abdicated all responsibility for the issue of child sex abuse in Australian society. The Commonwealth Government also chose not to appear before the Commission which further demonstrated the Abbot Government’s lack of commitment to the important work being done on behalf of victims of abuse. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-25/child-abuse-royal-commissioners-disappointed-in/6348350)

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BILL ABOLISHING LIMITATION PERIODS IN CHILD ABUSE CASES PASSED WITHOUT AMENDMENT

The passing of this legislation is a credit to all Victorian Parliamentarians who gave the Bill bipartisan support. It is also a credit to the many advocates and campaigners who fought to for the establishment of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse which have directly led to the passing of the Bill and which will hopefully open the way for further justice for victims of child abuse.

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LANDMARK SCHOOL ABUSE CASE

His Honour Justice Rush said the evidence demonstrated that the ‘school is in every sense a religious school” where students were completely isolated from everything beyond the community they were in. The Plaintiff’s evidence, which was not contested, was that Leiffer (the Principal) touched the Plaintiff on the breasts, sucked her breasts and digitally penetrated her. This abuse occurred at the Principal’s home, at the school and at school camps.

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SALVATION ARMY SOUTHERN TERRITORY TO RE-OPEN SETTLEMENTS

On Friday 9 October 2015, after listening to 3 days of harrowing testimony from survivors of child sex abuse in four Homes run by the Salvation Army Southern Territory namely Eden Park Boys Home in South Australia, Nedlands Children’s Home in Western Australia and the Box Hill Boys Home and the Bayswater Boys Home (1 & 2) in Victoria, Flloyd Tidd, the Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Southern Territory again apologised on behalf of the Salvation Army to former residents of Salvation Army Homes. Commander Tidd said:

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GUIDELINES ON CIVIL CLAIMS ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council (which was established to co-ordinate the Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse) has, on the eve of the further Royal Commission Public Hearings into the Melbourne and Ballarat Dioceses, published guidelines on how the Church should respond to civil claims for child sex abuse. http://www.tjhcouncil.org.au/media.aspx

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Private School Found Liable in Child Sex Abuse Case

In a previous blog on the Erlich decision (17 September 2015), the case of Lepore v NSW [2003] HCA 4 was referred to in the context of vicarious liability of schools for the illegal conduct of employees including child sex abuse. The finding of vicarious liability generally requires that for an act to be considered within the course of employment, it must either be authorized, or be intimately connected, to an authorised act. The High Court found in Lepore v NSW [2003] HCA 4 (6 February 2003) that the school in that case was not vicariously liable for the illegal conduct (sexual assaults) of its employee. However the door was left open for vicarious liability to be found where the “empowerment of the employee materially increased the risk of the sexual assault and hence the harm.”

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Military Abuse Claims – Army Apprentice Schools, Balcombe and Latchford Barracks

The Federal Government has conceded that there is a culture of abuse in our Defence Forces. There was little choice but for the Government to make this concession following a damning report by DLA Piper into military abuse.

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$215,000 awarded in Sentencing Act application brought by Angela Sdrinis Legal - AA v Buckley

Judge Dean of the County Court handed down written reasons for a Judgement on 29 January 2016 in relation to an award of $215,000 in a claim for compensation pursuant to s85B of the Sentencing Act (where the sentencing judge can order that compensation is paid by the perpetrator to his or her victim) brought by this firm on behalf of a former ward of state who was abused in care.

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Did you or someone you know suffer abuse at St Luke’s Children’s Home, Bendigo?

St Luke’s Children’s Home, also known as St Luke’s, St Luke’s Toddlers’ Home, St Luke’s Bendigo for Toddlers, or Langley Hall, was run by the Mission of St James and St John (now the Anglican Church). From 1932 until 1979, it housed around 1500 children.

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Royal Commission Announces Defence Case Study-Balcombe Army Apprentice School/HMAS Leeuwin and Cadets to be Investigated

The Royal Commission is continuing to cast its laser eye over institutions and on 21 June, 2016, the Australian Defence Forces’ response to child sex abuse will be the subject of public scrutiny for a period of 2 weeks. The scope and purpose of the public hearing is to inquire into the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse of the following institutions operated by the Australian Defence Force (ADF):

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David Whitcroft-Convicted Paedophile

Earlier this month David Whitcroft was convicted of offences against a man whom he abused at age 14 when he was a ward of the state. It has now been reported by the Age that Whitcroft also had access to students at Geelong College for a period of over 20 years. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/convicted-paedophile-had-access-to-geelong-college-students-for-almost-20-years-20160526-gp4iby.html

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More States Move to Abolish Limitation Periods in Child Abuse Cases

The Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse into its report on Redress and Civil Litigation ( http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/policy-and-research/redress/final-report-redress-and-civil-litigation ) identified many barriers which faced victims of historical child abuse who wished to pursue justice in the courts. One of the very significant barriers identified by the Royal Commission was limitation periods which provide for specific periods of time within which victims of child abuse had to lodge their claims with a court or face having the claim struck out because they were too late.

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More States Move to Abolish Limitation Periods in Child Abuse Cases

Whilst the abolition of time limits in child abuse cases is a very important move for current and future victims of child sex assault, it does not provide for justice for thousands of past victims of institutional abuse who either settled their cases for modest sums, or who did not receive any compensation at all, because of the probability or fact of being unable to overcome the limitation periods in order to pursue their claims in court.

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The Adversarial Legal System and Child Sex Abuse

In a recent address to the Judicial College of Victoria, (http://childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/media-centre/speeches/judicial-college-of-victoria) the Hon Justice McLellan AM, Chair of the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, discussed the difficulties experienced by child sex abuse victims in the courts where their alleged perpetrators are being prosecuted. His comments equally apply to victims who are seeking compensation in our courts. Justice McLellan in speaking of the adversarial legal system made the following points:

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