Child-sex victims shun plan for compo
Institutions responsible for childsex abuse are facing a new wave of civil legal action as lawyers advise many victims to shun the $4 billion national redress scheme.
Modest payments of $5000 for some abuse victims and a cap of $150,000 for the worst offending under the new funding formula are being blamed for the reluctance to use the national scheme.
Churches also are concerned that aggressive tactics by some lawyers will expose parishes to having to fund even greater costs through asset sales and budget cuts.
The Weekend Australian can reveal that the churches and other bodies are confronting pockets of deep, early resistance to the redress scheme as victims struggle with a system that rates payments according to whether there was penetrative sex, contact abuse or exposure.
The scheme has been capped $50,000 below the royal commission’s recommendation, and lawyers are telling some victims they could qualify for payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if their case was strong enough and the victim could withstand the pressures of the court system.
There also is the option of pursuing a negotiated settlement that prevents victims being retraumatised by going through the courts but receiving more than the maximum $150,000.
Victorian lawyer Ingrid Irwin, said civil action, rather than the redress scheme, was the best way to ensure there was full compensation for lifelong injury. “That’s when you are really going to get a closer reflection of what redress should be,’’ she said. “You can’t grade abuse — it is not a mathematical equation. This just creates divisions within the survivor community.’’
Peter Kelso, a NSW abuse compensation lawyer, said it was essential victims received expert advice before signing up to the redress scheme. “There’s always been the option to go civil. They can’t take away your right to go to court,’’ he said.
The redress scheme, which has started processing payments to 1400 applicants, has been widely criticised by victim groups, which accuse the government of backing a system modelled in part on the first-generation Catholic funds set up to compensate for abuse.
The churches are concerned that a concerted push for civil action was leading to aggressive tactics by abuse lawyers that include compensation for loss of earnings caused by the abuse.
The redress scheme does have advantages for some victims because it has a lower burden of proof and limits the exposure of victims to a long-running court battle and the risk of losing with heavy legal costs.
The Department of Social Services said the first payments had been made and the scouts and YMCA were among the first to sign up. The Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches all plan to sign up.
Victorian abuse lawyer Viv Waller said her firm had “pretty grave concerns’’ about the redress scheme and that the federal option had limited value. Dr Waller said there was too little emphasis in the redress scheme for ongoing psychiatric care and there were examples of significant civil payments well above the amounts likely to be handed out via the redress scheme.