Victims alarmed over legal bid to suppress names of faith-based abusers

6:13 pm on 22 November 2020

Efforts by church organisations to temporarily keep the names of deceased perpetrators secret ahead of an Abuse in Care inquiry is hugely upsetting for survivors, an advocate for abuse survivors says.

Bishop goes to Mass in the church

A lawyer for the Catholic Church told the Commission it was not seeking to cover up the names. Photo: 123rf

Lawyers acting for the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church have asked the Royal Commission to temporarily keep the names of deceased perpetrators of abuse hidden from the public eye through an interim non-publication order.

The faith-based hearings start at the end of the month, following a lengthy hearing into redress for survivors of abuse while in state care between 1950 and 1999.

A central argument for the non-publication order is that there has not been sufficient time for natural justice and preparation before the hearing starts.

Murray Heasley, an advocate for Catholic Church abuse survivors, who was at the procedural hearing today, said it has caused massive disquiet among victims.

"For many of them it is between 20 and 60 years since this happened and this is for many of them, perhaps their last chance to seek some redress and some justice."

He said it is incredible so many people had come forward.

"There is massive cultural reasons not to step up. Most people don't - they remain silent. Now they've heard about these questions of redactions ... and now this talk about dead people not being able to be mentioned is deeply alarming."

The Catholic Church's lawyer Sally McKenzie told chair Judge Coral Shaw the church was not seeking to cover up evidence.

"It is purely a question of whether the name is publicly used now," she said.

Judge Shaw reserved her decision and is expected to announce it next week.

The hearing will begin with survivor witnesses on 30 November.

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