Redress scheme burden of proof kept low to avoid legal costs

The cost of the Australian redress scheme is estimated at $4bn (Pixabay)

An architect of the national redress scheme for child sexual abuse survivors says the burden of proof for compensation claims has been kept deliberately low, The Australian reports.

This is to avoid the legal costs experienced by an Irish redress scheme that demanded a higher level of proof.

However, the cost of the Australian low burden of proof redress scheme has been estimated at $4 billion, more than twice the cost of the Irish scheme, which required survivors to put evidence forward to a hearing and also funded their legal costs to make their case for compensation.

Legal fees in the Irish equivalent to the national redress scheme — the Irish Residential Institutions Redress Board — amounted to almost 20 per cent of the scheme’s total costs.

The scheme, which operated until 2011, paid almost €1 billion to survivors who had experienced child sex abuse in care homes. Legal fees came to €193 million.

While the Australian scheme is open to all abuse survivors, the Irish scheme limited payments to just more than 15,000 victims abused in care homes.

Ben Mathews, from the Queensland University of Technology’s School of Law, contributed to the commission’s work on the redress scheme.

He said the commission had pursued a framework that minimised legal costs.

“Minimising legal fees is one of the key objectives of the scheme. For many eligible people, it’s quite conceivable that they wouldn’t seek or need to seek legal advice at all,” Professor Mathews said.

Under recommendations put forward in the royal commission’s final report, minimal evidence would be required to substantiate claims of institutional child abuse, with payouts of up to $200,000 available to victims suffering the highest category of abuse.

In some cases, a statutory declaration would be required, but the commission’s final report says reasonable likelihood should be the standard of proof for determining applications for redress. It suggested removing the cap on legal assistance for child sex abuse survivors, with uncertain implications for the scheme’s total cost.

FULL STORY

Low proof on child sex compensation ‘to avoid Irish fees model’ (The Australian)

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