Of more than 2000 complaints by clergy child-sex abuse victims in Victoria [i.e., Mebourne, Australia and its environs], only one has ever made it through the civil court process to a verdict, a researcher will tell a human rights conference today.
Barney Zwartz reports in The Age:
Of more than 2000 complaints by clergy child-sex abuse victims in Victoria [i.e., Mebourne, Australia and its environs], only one has ever made it through the civil court process to a verdict, a researcher will tell a human rights conference on Friday. And that case failed.
The researcher and victims advocate, Judy Courtin, also says that more than half the victims associated with the secondary victims she interviewed are now prematurely dead, either through suicide or substance abuse.
She says the civil law's statute of limitations and especially the Ellis defence - by which the Catholic Church successfully argued it was not an entity that could be sued - has deterred lawyers so that ''victims are stymied … a clear breach of a fundamental human right''.
Criminal proceedings are not much more successful, with about four victims in every 1000 finding their abuser convicted, she says.
Ms Courtin is addressing a high-profile human rights conference held by Monash University's Castan Centre. Other speakers include Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, feminist Eva Cox, Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar, and Refugee Immigration Legal Centre director David Manne.
Ms Courtin says that apart from a single case - a class action that failed in the High Court in the late 1990s - every case involving the church has had to be negotiated. Some victims have won settlements from the church before getting to court.
She interviewed lawyers representing 2200 victims of clergy abuse, including the 200 in the failed class action. Because of the Ellis defence, half of the lawyers representing abuse victims never issue writs in courts.
''What this means at a national level is that there are possibly tens of thousands of clergy victims who do not have access to the civil courts.''
With criminal proceedings, statistics show that only 100 of every thousand child sex abuse victims report crimes to the police. These lead on average to only six convictions, of which more than half are appealed - and more than half of those appeals succeed. So criminal proceedings work for an average of 4 per cent of those who report to police.
She says 10 victims out of 18 associated with secondary victims she interviewed had died prematurely. ''Along with the 40-plus reported suicides of clergy victims of notorious paedophiles Best and Ridsdale, this is a very disturbing statistic.''