Catholic Insurer Has Week to Produce Files

July 10, 2015

The Catholic Church's insurance company has been given a week by a royal commission to produce almost 2000 files that could show exactly what the church knew about 63 abusers in its ranks.

At a directions hearing in Sydney on Friday Justice Peter McClellan, chair of the child sex abuse royal commission, ordered Catholic Church Insurers provide a list of relevant material by Monday, and the files by next Friday.

The hearing was called when CCI failed to meet the deadline of a previous summons and produce all the requested files. It has handed over some folders.

The commission wants to know what the insurer found when it carried out its own investigations into whether the Catholic Church had prior knowledge priests and other clergy were abusing children.

In the 1990s, CCI set up a dedicated sexual abuse insurance policy to cover the church for alleged sexual abuse claims going back more than 20 years.

The church at the time was facing what one bishop has described as a "tsunami" of allegations and was concerned about its liability in compensating victims.

If CCI found the church had prior knowledge that the alleged abuser was a risk, and did nothing about it, it would impact the claim.

On Friday, Gail Furness SC, counsel advising the commission, said the delay in getting all documents from CCI was impeding the work of the commission.

She asked Justice McClellan to make a new order.

Justice McClellan said he was inclined towards making an order setting aside the previous summons and requiring CCI to hand over all files on child sex abuse claims.

After an adjournment, Peter Gray, counsel representing CCI, said folders relating to 63 perpetrators about whom the commission had originally sought information could be provided in an agreed timeframe of one week.

These folders would cover claims where there was "or might have been a prior knowledge issue".

It has been previously reported that CCI, which is wholly owned by the Catholic Church and has charity status, has set aside up to $150 million to settle future child sex abuse claims.

Evidence at previous royal commission hearings has revealed that CCI had a role in capping payments to abuse survivors and in requiring deeds of release so the church could not be sued.








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