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Victoria examines child sexual abuse

03 May 2013

SURVIVORS of sexual abuse in the state of Victoria, Australia, had received a total of $AUD30 million from the Roman Catholic Church's insurers since 1991, the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into institutional handling of child sexual abuse has heard.

The compensation payments went to 600 people, but the insurers had refused to cover about 30 payouts, mainly because the bishop concerned had been aware of the actions of the offender, the inquiry heard.

Catholic Church Insurance confirmed that it had refused to finance compensation payments to the victims of the serial offender Gerald Ridsdale, from 1975, because the then Bishop of Ballarat was aware of his "propensity to offend". No action was taken against the priest, who was later jailed for child sexual abuse, until 1988.

As representatives of the RC Church appeared before the inquiry, an armed security officer was placed in the public gallery, re- portedly for the first time. Under questioning, a former Bishop of Ballarat, the Rt Revd Peter Connors, agreed that the diocese - where 40 sexual-abuse victims have allegedly committed suicide - had "effectively facilitated child sex offences by leaving known offenders in place". This was "un-Christlike", he said.

The inquiry had previously heard that the Anglican diocese of Melbourne had paid out a total of $268,000; there had been 46 al-legations of child sexual abuse since 1955. Fewer than ten clergy had lost their licences or been unfrocked for child abuse offences.

The inquiry, originally due to report by the end of April, has had its deadline extended to 30 September. A national Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse complaints has recently commenced.

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