ALA calls for National Inquiry into sexual abuse of children

19th Apr 2012

The Australian Lawyers Alliance today called for a National Inquiry into sexual abuse perpetrated in religious institutions.

ALA NSW spokesperson, Dr Andrew Morrison SC, said the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry launched on Tuesday, would be manifestly inadequate as it would miss widespread abuse that had also been happening in NSW and other states.

“A large number of sexual abuse claims in NSW have been inadequately investigated,” Dr Morrison said.

“While a problem exists in many religious institutions, it is particularly apparent in the Catholic Church due to its long-standing practice of not complying with its legal obligations to report abuse by its priests under Section 316 of the Crimes Act,“ he said.

“When complaints are made about priests or teachers in parochial schools, the Catholic Church’s response has all too frequently been to move the alleged perpetrator on.

"Frequently, it is found that further abuse is then committed in other places.

"I have seen convincing and unchallenged evidence of such conduct in a considerable number of cases involving the Catholic Church and the devastating affect this has had on people’s lives. This is simply unacceptable in our society.”

Dr Morrison said the other problem was that, in Australia, the Catholic Church has sought to avoid liability for the conduct of its priests.

“If a priest abuses his office the church seeks to avoid legal responsibility, yet the Catholic Church is liable for the conduct of its priests in the United States, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Only in Australia can the church hide behind a structure that avoids liability for priests’ misconduct.

A Private Members Bill, to rectify this legal anomaly, is being put before the NSW Legislative Council, later this year, by David Shoebridge MLC and should be supported by all parties interested in justice,” Dr Morrison said.

Tags: Access to justice Criminal justice Victims of crime Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse