Survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, nuns, or employees of churches can now sue church organisations.
On 1 January 2019, new laws came into effect in NSW imposing a retrospective duty of care on church organisations who exercise care, supervision or authority over children.
The laws reverse the onus of proof by requiring the institution to prove that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the abuse from occurring.
In addition to this, the laws change the concept of ‘vicarious liability’ to cover abusers who are not employees but rather in a position within the church organisation that is like a form of employment.
Under the previous laws and legal precedents, it was very difficult to sue a church because it does not legally exist. The church often holds its assets in trust, charities or labyrinthine corporate entities. This prevented victims from seeking compensation from the church for the actions of their religious leaders, employees or volunteers.
As our principal, Greg Martin, says:
This is a great step for vulnerable people who have suffered sexual abuse. The old “Ellis Defence” allowed churches to hide behind various corporate veils. The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse undoubtedly has led to these new laws, even though the full findings have not been handed down. There will be more changes beneficial to the victims. Watch this space!
For more information about the new laws have a look at this recent article in The Guardian Australia.
If you are a victim of abuse then call us on 02 9687 9322.
If you wish to obtain a referral to specialist psychological services then call us and we can refer you.
If you need mental health support or emotional assistance then call Lifeline on 13 11 14.