Saturday, February 02, 2013

Church may lose 'shield' against legal action

The Victorian sex abuse inquiry is likely to recommend at least six state laws be reformed to hold the Catholic Church to account, including removal of the legal ''shield'' it has used to avoid being sued by victims, reports the Age.

Chairwoman Georgie Crozier said the committee already had a good idea of the sort of recommendations it would make. Fairfax Media understands the committee is eager for several laws to be changed this year.

The Victorian inquiry does not need to await the outcome of the royal commission into the sexual abuse of children, set up by the Gillard government and yet to take formal evidence.

Ms Crozier said she expected the state inquiry to be of great use to the commission.

Enabling the church to be sued, mandatory reporting of suspected abuse, concealing crimes and extending the statute of limitations for child abuse are all issues that could be dealt with by the Victorian government.

The inquiry is expected to recommend amending the Property Trust Act to halt the so-called Ellis defence, named for a case in New South Wales, which the church uses to say it is not actually an entity and therefore there is nothing for victims to sue.

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