Child sex abuse inquiry hears 4000th testimony

Author: Joanne McCarthy
Date Published: 09/10/2015

THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its 4000th private hearing in a jail in August as  Britain followed Australia’s lead in tackling child sexual abuse.

The royal commission heard evidence on August 19 from a prisoner who had been sexually abused as a child.

In Britain, the head of its newly established Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse praised the ‘‘remarkable’’ response to the Australian commission.

In a speech to Australian church leaders on Thursday, Royal commissioner Justice Peter McClellan said he was pleased the British inquiry would closely follow successful Australian arrangements.

More than 1500 people  were waiting for a private hearing and about 40 people a  week requested a private hearing, Justice McClellan said.

The royal commission has received 16,361 allegations involving 3566 institutions since it was established in November 2012 following the Newcastle Herald’s Shine the Light campaign for a royal commission into historic child sexual abuse.

More than 7000 allegations relate to religious institutions, with 4418 against the Catholic Church, and more than 3600 against government institutions.

Allegations against other churches are: Anglican, 871; Uniting Church, 411; Presbyterian, 123; Methodist, 69; Salvation Army, 519; Jehovah’s Witnesses, 137; Jewish, 80; Baptist, 59; Seventh Day Adventist, 56; Australian Christian Churches, 50; Lutheran, 32; Brethren, 30; Mormon, 18; Coptic Orthodox, 4; and Greek Orthodox, 2.

Justice McClellan said the royal commission had referred 727 matters to police to investigate with a view to prosecuting alleged offenders.

In the past few weeks, the royal commission had reported to the federal government on a national redress scheme for victims of abuse.

It was clear that time limits presented ‘‘a considerable, and sometimes an insurmountable, burden for survivors wishing to commence civil proceedings’’ against child sex offenders and institutions, he said.

The royal commission should also mark the end of ‘‘the societal norm that children should be seen but not heard’’, he said.

‘‘When the required silence of the child was accompanied by an unquestioning belief by adults in the integrity of the carer … the power imbalance was entrenched to the inevitable detriment of many children,’’ Justice McClellan said.

‘‘We must ensure that in the future the institution does not silence the child.’’