NSW Parliament has abolished the “vile and unjust” legal defence that allowed the Catholic Church to hide behind property trusts and deny child sexual abuse survivors fair compensation.
The abolition of the “Ellis Defence”, named after the survivor who tried to sue the Sydney Archdiocese and lost because there was no entity to sue, ends more than a decade of survivors accepting settlements after advice they would not win in court while the defence was available to the church.
Greens MP and justice spokesperson David Shoebridge, a barrister who played a key role in the 2012 campaign for a child sexual abuse royal commission, welcomed the legislative reform which was passed in the NSW Parliament late on Wednesday night, but said it should have happened years earlier.
Mr Shoebridge first introduced legislation to abolish the Ellis Defence in 2014.
The defence was a “grossly unfair barrier to justice for survivors of child sexual abuse”, he said.
“For years the Catholic Church has been defeating the legitimate claims of children who had been sexually abused in its care using this vile and unjust defence. From today this ends,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“This change came about following years of campaigning by brave survivors and their advocates. It is them I give credit to for achieving this historic reform. It took an unambiguous recommendation from the royal commission for the parliament to finally strip this appalling injustice from the statute books.”
Mr Shoebridge organised a meeting with the Newcastle Herald in Newcastle in September, 2012 that demonstrated public support for a royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse. The meeting helped launch the Herald’s Shine the Light campaign.
Mr Shoebridge said the royal commission demonstrated that no institution should ever be above the law and no politician should ever again place the interests of a powerful institution above the rights of children and the vulnerable.
Wednesday’s legislative reform was “not a Greens bill, but that does not matter to us. It is four years too late, and that does matter”.
“But what ultimately matters more than any of that is today it is finally done,” Mr Shoebridge said