GLJ High Court decision may lead to fairer outcomes for abuse survivors

1st Nov 2023

Fair compensation for survivors of historical child sexual abuse is more likely following the decision handed down today by the High Court of Australia in the case of GLJ v the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Lismore.

“This decision has helped to protect the rights of survivors of institutional abuse as children to seek legal redress,” said Dr Andrew Morrison RFD SC. “It acknowledges that the special circumstances justifying a permanent stay are often largely created by the abuse itself and the failures of the institution to deal with a known risk.

“The long passage of time in abuse cases makes the absence of direct evidence and the deaths of perpetrators quite common, but this should not be used as a reason to prevent survivors from accessing justice. Often it is the institution’s own lack of action to investigate and prevent the abuse and failure to keep records that means evidence is unavailable.”

This was the first time that the High Court had considered the principles of permanent stay applications in the context of historical abuse claims.

“We have been awaiting this judgement with interest as the High Court’s decision in this case will have an impact on many other cases pending across Australia,” said Dr Morrison. “The excessive use of permanent stays, or threats of stays, was preventing survivors from having their experience acknowledged and just compensation received.

“With this decision the High Court has determined that granting a permanent stay should be a measure of last resort.

“The Royal Commission recommended that abuse survivors should have the right to have their legally valid claims determined on their merits at court.  

“Despite this High Court decision, legislative reform is still required to ensure that a permanent stay in an institutional abuse case cannot be granted where there is a known history of serious abuse in the institution or by the alleged abuser, and no policy was implemented at the time to prevent the abuse.”

Tags: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Child Sexual Abuse