Australian Redress update – participating institutions have doubled

The number of institutions participating in the Australian National Redress Scheme (NRS) has more than doubled as more institutions have completed the necessary steps to join the NRS.

As at 6 February 2020, 162 non-government institutions are now participating in the NRS – up from 67 last year, in addition to the Commonwealth, state and territory governments.

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Australian High Court to deliver final appeal judgment in the Cardinal Pell appeal on 7 April 2020

On 12 March the High Court in Australia deferred ruling on an appeal to overturn the conviction of former Vatican treasurer George Pell for sexually assaulting two teenage choirboys in the 1990s for which he was sentenced to a six year jail term.

After two days of legal arguments, the High Court of Australia said it was still considering whether to allow the appeal.

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Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy due to sexual abuse claims

On Tuesday this week the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was forced to file for bankruptcy as it faces legal challenges over thousands of allegations of sexual abuse. It lodged papers in Delaware Court as it attempts to negotiate a compensation plan for abuse victims.

The BSA which has been in existence for 110 years was founded in 1910 and it has kept confidential files since the 1920s listing staff and volunteers accused of sexual abuse, for the purposes of keeping predators away from children.

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Redress in Australia – slower than anticipated – changes to be made

On 29 November 2019, the Australian Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, hosted the Ministers Redress Scheme Governance Board, which is a meeting of the relevant Ministers with responsibility for the National Redress Scheme (NRS) in their state or territory.

Those in attendance noted that while redress has been paid to several hundred survivors to date (975 as of 03/01/2020) the administration of the NRS is not providing the fast, simple and trauma-informed response survivors deserve.

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Update on the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

On 16 January 2020, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its costs from its inception in October 2015 to the end of 2019. Cost in that period was £30,049,590.

SCAI’s work continues. Phase 5 public hearings, on investigations into the abuse of children whose departure from Scotland to countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand was part of child migration programmes, are due to resume in February 2020. This phase started on 3 December 2019 with evidence being heard that month by video-link from witnesses who were unable to travel to the inquiry.

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Scottish limitation litigation on the ‘fair hearing’ defence

The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Scotland Act 2017 retrospectively abolished the three year ‘time bar’ rule for personal injury claims arising from childhood abuse in Scotland but retained defences in the Act on ‘fair hearing’ and on ‘substantial prejudice’.

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Limitation: A look at the state of Florida

Florida’s statute of limitations is not clear cut and is difficult to navigate. In 2010, the state abolished the criminal statute of limitations for cases involving sexual battery (rape) against children. However, this only applies to cases where the child was under 16 years old, and limitation had not already expired on 1 July 2010. Prior to this law’s enactment, the limitations period varied.

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New York State considering state-operated fund for child sexual abuse victims and survivors

New legislation has been proposed which, if enacted, could pave the way for a state-operated fund in the state of New York. It is anticipated that the fund would be used by victims and survivors pursuing child abuse claims, as well as non-profit organisations that help survivors in doing so.

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French Bishops approve payments for child sexual abuse victims

The Catholic Church in France announced on 9 November that abuse victims will receive financial compensation, following similar moves in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.

French Bishops voted at The Bishops’ Conference on 9 November in favour of a plan to offer payments to people who were sexually abused when they were children by French members of the Catholic clergy. It was agreed the church would make one-off payments to each victim. The payments are not a substitute for compensation and are not a requirement of the French legal system or the church.

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A change in the law can have a big impact

Whilst the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England & Wales focuses its attention on reviewing legal processes available to deliver reparation to victims and survivors of abuse, and in particular to consider whether the law (such as the statute of Limitations) should be changed, we can see the impact a change in the law can have in other jurisdictions.

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