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Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

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Media Release

Published on

April 28 – May 9, 2014

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has today exposed the significant legal hurdles faced by victims of abuse who attempt to pursue their civil rights through the courts.

Slater and Gordon Chief Executive Officer and lawyer Hayden Stephens gave evidence today at a hearing in Perth, outlining the work undertaken by the firm on behalf of about 240 men who had been young boys in the care of the Christian Brothers in the 1940s, 50s and 60s in Western Australia. The law firm represented the men in civil action during the early 1990s.

Quotes can be attributed to Slater and Gordon Chief Executive Officer and lawyer Hayden Stephens:

The Royal Commission presents an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and highlight the hurdles that are faced when pursuing your civil rights through the courts as someone who is the victim of institutionalised sexual abuse.

The firm undertook significant work to advance and protect the legal interests of the men, some 20 years ago. Slater and Gordon pursued their legal rights over three years in three jurisdictions – Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. The case also went to the High Court twice and the Court of Appeal in NSW.

I hope that through our contribution to the Royal Commission that there is a greater understanding about the significant hurdles that these courageous men faced in bringing their claims to the courts so many years ago and the hurdles that exist to this day.

I am reassured by the Royal Commission’s interest in understanding the legal barriers including strict time limitations and the risk of being pursued to pay legal costs.

I hope the commission can explore ways to overcome precisely the problems that were raised today.

The Royal Commission presents an opportunity for the church authorities to right their significant wrongs of the past and to provide additional compensation to the former Christian Brother residents.

Victims should not have to satisfy the usual rules and formalities of providing evidence, and separate amounts of compensation should be considered for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and treatment expenses.

The Church must be prevented from using technical legal defences or avoiding liability because it is not a corporate identity.