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:
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:
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