Calls to Make Catholic Church Liable for Abuse

Daily Telegraph
May 28, 2012

SEX abuse victims of priests in NSW may receive vastly higher compensation payments under a Greens proposal to let victims sue the Catholic Church directly.

Greens MP David Shoebridge says victims are missing out on potentially large payouts because they have to rely on mediation with the church.

They cannot sue the Catholic Church directly in NSW - unlike the Anglican Church - because of a 1936 state law that separated the church's property trust from its pastoral duties, he says.

"Victims of sexual abuse have no legal remedy here in NSW against the Catholic Church," the NSW upper house MP, flanked by a sex abuse victim and a compensation lawyer, told reporters today.

"For too long, the church's lawyers and legal technicalities have defeated the claims of victims."

The Greens' draft Justice for Victims bill would let victims to sue the Catholic Church's property trust rather than rely on mediation with the church, which Mr Shoebridge said left victims with only several thousand dollars in compensation.

"If victims have full rights of compensation, we see victims getting hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

Lawyer Jemima Brewer, who has represented victims, said without the threat of huge financial liabilities, the Catholic Church was failing to act to prevent abuse.

"It then falls to the taxpayer of NSW to bear the cost of this preventable abuse," she said, adding the state's victims' compensation scheme was "very limited".

Nicky Davies, who as a teenager endured six years of sexual abuse by a Passionist Brothers priest in northern Sydney, said mediation with the church for compensation was "very insulting" and "disempowering".

"I still haven't recovered from that process and the amount was vastly inadequate to cover my recovery expenses," the spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said.


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