VICTIMS of sexual abuse by clergy are being discouraged from lodging police reports into deceased alleged offenders, Ballarat lawyer and former MP Dianne Hadden claimed yesterday.
Ms Hadden said victims taking part in a parliamentary inquiry had told her they were being “fobbed off” and told there was no point in reporting abuse by dead clergy as there was no chance of prosecution.
“They have been told by police it is too late to make a statement to police because the person who abused them is dead,” she said.
“It is totally unsatisfactory when co-offenders may still be alive or the person who employed the alleged offender could be held accountable at law.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Argall of Ballarat Police Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Investigative Team denied victims were being given misinformation and encouraged them to report abuse to police.
He said criminal investigations would not be launched into dead offenders.
“It is up to the individual to decide and we would certainly encourage people to make reports if they have been a victim of this kind of abuse but people need to understand if the alleged perpetrator has died, there won’t be a prosecution or full investigation,” he said.
Detective Senior Sergeant Argall said a small number of new complaints had been lodged following the initiation of the parliamentary inquiry, due to report by April 30 next year.
He said calls for a new unit to investigate clergy sexual abuse was not required.
A former member of Victoria’s Legislative Council, Ms Hadden is currently assisting a number of victims preparing submissions to the inquiry on a pro-bono basis.
She said the recent charging of a New South Wales priest over misprision of a felony – the failure to disclose a serious crime – relating to alleged child sex offences by another priest in the 1970s, showed that state’s laws were more effective than Victoria.
Ms Hadden encouraged victims making submissions to carefully read a guide to the process published by the Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee and available online.
“People don’t understand the three questions in the inquiry’s terms of references. The submission guidelines are excellent and direct the mind and help those who feel it is too difficult to write extensively,” she said.