The Victorian Government has announced a consultation process following the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) independent review handed down in December 2015 into sex discrimination and sexual harassment within Victoria Police (https://engage.vic.gov.au/victoria-police-redress-scheme).
Christian Porter, Minister for Social Services, also announced that from March 2018, a dedicated telephone helpline and website will be available to provide information to survivors and their families about the Scheme. These services will also connect survivors with legal and community support services that are currently provided through the Royal Commission and which will continue to be funded to support the Scheme. This means that the Knowmore Legal Services which was established to provide support to survivors of abuse engaging with the Royal Commission will continue to operate and provide vital legal assistance. It is also very important that the dedicated psychological services will continue to operate and fill an essential need.
The plaintiff (Marita Murphy), who was born on 19 July 1961, alleged that the defendant (John Connellan), who was born on 12 December 1954, sexually assaulted her, on two occasions, in ‘approximately 1967 or 1968’. The plaintiff alleged that these sexual assaults occurred whilst she was staying with Connellan’s family for a period of about 7 to 10 days.
The British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has told the UK Historical Child Abuse Inquiry that the child migration policy in which both the UK and Australian Governments participated was “fundamentally flawed.” (Herald Sun 28 July 2017)
A recent Supreme Court decision has raised the high water mark in damages assessments in historical abuse cases (Hand v Morris & Anor  VSC 437). The Plaintiff had been sexually assaulted by his teacher whilst a student at Eastwood Primary School in 1974. The perpetrator (Morris) had been convicted of sex offences against Mr Hand and the Department of Education admitted liability so the decision only involved the assessment of damages or compensation that was to be paid to the victim.
Angela Sdrinis Legal is acting for the daughter of personnel stationed in the 60’s at the RAAF base in Point Cook who alleges that she suffered child sexual abuse at the hands of an officer stationed there. Angela Sdrinis Legal is also acting for the son of personnel stationed at the RAAF base in Laverton who also alleges sexual abuse at the hands of an officer stationed there.
The Royal Commission into Child Abuse (RC) has handed down its report into abuse in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) (http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/getattachment/057f7f87-c47d-40c9-9ea8-6de0bbc1f211/Report-of-Case-Study-No-40) following a public hearing held in 2016. Angela Sdrinis Legal represented four former ADF members who were called to give evidence at the hearing.
Maria Liordos died whilst in the care of the state aged 16 years and two days. The Coroner found that Maria’s death was caused by “ mixed drug toxicity”. Maria’s journey under child protection sadly followed a path which we see all too often when acting for victims of institutional abuse, although thankfully the child protection experience very rarely leads to death. However, Maria’s circumstances show how easy it is for vulnerable children like her to remain at risk notwithstanding that they are placed in care for their protection.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (“SNAP”) recently provided an alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) regarding the periodic reports of the Holy See (the Vatican) on child abuse. (https://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/attach/2017/09/2017-09_SNAPCCR_Report_CRC.pdf)
The Tasmanian Government has released for consultation a draft bill abolishing limitation periods in child abuse claims. The bill mirrors legislation that has been passed in Victoria and New South Wales and in particular specifically retains a judge’s discretion to stay or strike out proceedings on the basis of common law prejudice.
The legislation introducing a national redress scheme for survivors of institutional abuse will be tabled in Parliament today. You can listen to the Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, talking to Sabra Lane about the proposed arrangements at this link:
At this stage, the scheme applies only to a Commonwealth institution. The scheme will also apply to Territory and non-government institutions of a Territory which decide to “opt in”. Institutions that opt in to the scheme will need to meet a number of criteria including that they are solvent and agree not to rely upon previous deeds of release. Participating institutions will be liable for the costs of providing redress and will contribute to the administration costs of the scheme;
Scotland has passed the limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 which has abolished in child abuse cases the previous three year time limit for lodging a claim with the court (https://news.gov.scot/news/legal-milestone-for-child-abuse-victims).
Northern Ireland has received recommendations to establish a redress scheme for victims of historical child abuse following a report by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, led by Anthony Hart, which outlined a series of recommendations after sexual, physical and emotional abuse was revealed to have taken place at church and state-run institutions between 1922 and 1995. Among the recommendations was a proposal that abuse survivors should receive compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 each as part of a compensation package.
The Royal Commission identified that the strict time limits imposed upon survivors to bring a civil action were particularly problematic for victims of child sexual abuse. The Commission demonstrated that many survivors delay disclosure for years and even decades. Accordingly, it recommended that the State Governments move to legislate the removal of the statute of limitations.
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