Laws To Be Abolished To Allow Sex Abuse Survivors To Sue Organisations And Churches

Dubbed 'unfair legal loophole'

Laws To Be Abolished To Allow Sex Abuse Survivors To Sue Organisations And Churches Pexels

The Victorian government says it will abolish the so-called Ellis defence, an "unfair legal loophole" which has prevented child sexual abuse survivors from suing organisations like the Catholic Church.

Under proposed laws unveiled on Tuesday, unincorporated associations, such as churches, would have to nominate an entity able to pay damages.

"This deals with what is something that I think has re-traumatised victims and survivors for too long, something that has made a terrible set of circumstances even harder," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.

Mr Andrews says for too long "there's been this veil, this fiction, that in the case of, say, the Catholic Church" there is nobody who can be sued.

"We know, of course, that there are considerable, indeed enormous, resources that are available to the Catholic Church."

The Ellis defence refers to a 2007 court case brought by abuse survivor John Ellis in which the NSW Court of Appeal found the Catholic Church was not a legal entity which could be sued for abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the Betrayal of Trust report tabled in Victorian parliament in 2013, recommended the precedent be addressed.

Under the government's proposed laws, if an organisation refuses to nominate a proper defendant with assets, a court can do it for them.

The bill will be introduced to parliament on Tuesday and Attorney-General Martin Pakula says he will be "both shocked and amazed" if it is blocked.

The head of the Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, has welcomed the legislation.

"This is a proper step forward as a pathway for people who want to seek damages for what's happened to them in abuse cases in institutions like the Catholic Church. This is a very positive thing," he told media. 

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