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:
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
In a previous blog on the Erlich decision (17 September 2015), the case of Lepore v NSW  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  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.”
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.
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.
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.
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):
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
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.
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.
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:
One of the reasons we have a Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse (RC) is because there was community outrage at the many legal barriers in both civil and the criminal law faced by victims of historical abuse so that the perpetrators of abuse, and those who shielded them, were escaping responsibility.
The Tasmanian Government is the last in the line of state governments to announce the abolition of limitation periods in child sex abuse cases as recommended by the Royal Commission into Child Abuse. Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have already abolished limitation periods in these cases and the Western Australian Government and Opposition have promised to introduce similar legislation in the WA parliament after the state election next March. With the Tasmanian announcement the only state yet to act is South Australia and the South Australian Government should hang its head in shame for dragging the chain.
Former Federal Court Judge Donnell Ryan QC handed down his report (Ryan Report) into the Melbourne Response on 25 September 2015. Many victims had yet again poured their hearts out regarding their abuse and their treatment at the Melbourne Archdiocese of the Catholic Church and had an expectation that the report would be released to them and to the public by Archbishop Hart. Calls to the Archbishop to release the report have fallen on deaf ears reaffirming yet again that the Church still doesn’t get it despite apologies, crocodile tears and assurances that things have changed. It took the Royal Commission into Child Abuse to release the report. This underlines yet again the importance of this Royal Commission and raises concerns about how institutions will behave once the Commission’s spotlight is no longer shining a light on institutional responses to child abuse claims.
The Advisory Council that was established to report to Senator Christian Porter (Minister for Social Services) who has carriage of the process on behalf of the Federal Government will not report until the end of the year and in the meantime, the Advisory Council (and its members) is not allowed to discuss its deliberations. So, there is frustratingly little information in the public arena other than the Government’s media release of 4 November 2016 when the scheme was announced. However, Ms Barbara Bennett, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Social Services, gave evidence on behalf of the Department of Social Services and shed some further light on what the Federal Government is planning:
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