Legal barriers that have prevented child sexual abuse survivors from suing institutions will be removed following the introduction of new civil litigation laws in the NSW Parliament. Source: Ten Daily.
State Attorney General Mark Speakman yesterday said the reforms stem from royal commission recommendations and will include the removal of the “Ellis defence”, which enabled certain institutions to avoid liability.
The widely-discredited defence arose in 2006 when John Ellis, a former altar boy and abuse survivor was unable to sue the Church after it successfully argued its assets were held in a trust and was protected from legal action.
Under the laws introduced into parliament yesterday, institutions who cannot nominate a defendant will be appointed a trustee to be sued.
“Overhauling the civil litigation system is an historic milestone for survivors, making it easier for them to pursue compensation for child abuse,” Mr Speakman said.
“Nothing can erase the devastation survivors have suffered, but these changes will help ensure institutions are more effectively held to account.”
Under the reforms, vicarious liability will be extended to include non-employees including volunteers or religious officers.
A new statutory duty of care will also apply to all relevant institutions, meaning an organisation will be liable for child abuse unless it can prove it took all “reasonable precautions” to prevent it.
In a statement, the Church in NSW said it supports the reforms, which will make it easier for child abuse survivors to access the civil justice system.
“Since last year, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has been consulting with the state government about civil litigation and criminal justice law reform,” the statement said.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said the ten NSW dioceses have had “comprehensive child safeguarding practices and protocols in place to ensure the safety of children” for several years.
“I am also optimistic our current discussions with the government will result in all NSW dioceses having legal entities that provide certainty, transparency and permanence, along with the financial ability to meet the claims of clerical sexual abuse survivors,” Archbishop Fisher said.
New NSW laws would help abuse victims sue (Daily Telegraph)