Church to pay victims of sex abuse

The Adviser/June 18, 2004
By Miles Kemp

Victims of sex abuse in the Anglican Church would be offered an apology and a negotiated financial settlement outside court.

The plan, to be announced at tomorrow's synod meeting to deal with the crisis in the church, has been adopted from a Catholic church model.

In exchange, victims would be forced to sign confidentiality agreements with the church to keep the abuse secret.

The independent report into abuse released by the church last month highlighted over 200 cases and 30 victims currently have a class action against the church.

Anti-sex abuse campaigner Rev Don Owers, whose lobbying brought about the inquiry, welcomed the dispute resolution plan.

But he said any matters raised of a criminal nature must be referred to police for possible prosecution.

"Broadly I support it because any model that offers mediation and conciliation is better than an argument in court," he said.

"Most of the time what victims want first and foremost is their complaint to be heard and what has happened to them is recognised and accepted by the church and that something is done to prevent further harm.

"If child sexual assault is involved the first thing that has to be done is report it to police."

A senior church source told The Advertiser Anglican officials had been in consultation with Catholic officials.

Dispute resolutions are agreeable to both sides because victims can receive compensation without a long court process and the church can cover-up the abuse.

The synod will be open to the public and held at the entertainment centre from 9.30am on Saturday.

Rev Owers also said the synod should also take some measures to curb the power of the Archbishop.

"One of the tasks for the synod to take on is that Archbishops can't make unilateral decisions with the church because all of them, not just Ian George generally speaking have quite a lot of latitude given to them," he said.

"We need to create some structures which prevents that happening."

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