The New South Wales legal aid service has come under scrutiny because of the fact that it has recently decided that it will not fund any compensation cases resulting from allegations of institutional child sex abuse. The Legal Aid NSW has made this announcement following the fact that the Federal Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was launched making it possible to file an application for compensation for those victims.
This Commission was launched following allegations of abuse from several large institutions in Australia including the Catholic Church which came under fire in recent years for a number of abuse allegations stemming back decades. Many feel that the problem was not adequately dealt with by the Church and some victims turned to the Government for assistance with looking into the matter in order to obtain justice in the criminal courts as well as monetary compensation. Many of the abuse cases have yet to be thoroughly investigated and in some cases the victims and perpetrators may be reaching old age or may have already died before justice could be served. In addition some other institutions that have been accused of abuse against children have yet to be investigated which means that the delays to receive compensation before this announcement was made would not be forthcoming. The investigations could take months if not years to find all of the parties involved in the abuse cases and to bring them to justice accordingly.
The reason why Legal Aid NSW will not fund the applications is because of that the organisation feels that the case compensation payments will have a very large impact on the organisation’s budget. The organisation’s budget, with it being a state organisation is already being allotted to handle other matters that are under their jurisdiction so that they aren’t freely allowed to allocate more funds to this cause immediately. The announcement was also not abitrary given other recent developments. The announcement comes after the NSW State Government recently made changes to the Victim’s Compensation Scheme which says that the majority of abuse victims would not be able to file for compensation if the person was a victim of institutional abuse.
The Greens MP David Shoebridge came out strongly against the action calling it a “double blow to the victims.” He also added that it was giving the Catholic Church along with other institutions an open door to continue to abuse children and also not receive any form of punishment for past abuses toward children.
The MP also added that he believes that Legal Aid NSW should deliver additional funds to obtain the compensation for the victims stating that the items could be recouped. If the claims are successful, then he adds that the funds put out to get the compensation could be recovered from the institutions themselves.
The NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell blames the problem on the fact that Legal Aid NSW has limited resources.