David Shoebridge hosts forum at Bathurst

CRIMES from the past need to be judged on today’s laws, NSW Legislative Council Member David Shoebridge said on Wednesday as he hosted a public forum on historic sexual abuse at St Stanislaus’ College.

While local politicians were invited to the forum, Mr Shoebridge did not invite anyone from Stannies. 

“I don’t believe you should give the same rights to the survivors and institutions that abuse them. It’s a false equivalent and inappropriate,” he said.

“I’m always open for dialogue, however. I did contact Dr [Anne] Wenham [Stannies principal] before the forum, but they [Stannies] were too busy to take my call.”

Abolishing the Ellis Defence and making sure perpetrators are given sentences that fit their crime were two of the key points made by Mr Shoebridge. 

The Ellis Defence has been described as the law used by the Catholic Church to abrogate its financial responsibility for abuse committed by clergymen on members of the parish. 

The Church received $400 million in government subsidies in 2010, but Mr Shoebridge drew attention to its sexual abuse history.

“Two in three cases are from faith-based institutions and two-thirds of that is in the Catholic Church,” he said.

“There were 4444 allegations of incidents of abuse between January 1980 to February 2015. For the Brothers of St. John of God, 40.4pc of the members have had child abuse allegations.

“Why hasn’t the NSW police shut that organisation down?”

Mr Shoebridge said perpetrators of child sexual abuse are punished to the sentencing practices of the time in which their crime took place. 

“If you commit an offence in 1950 and you’re found out in 2010, you can only be convicted on what the statute book said in 1950,” he said.

“Judges know it’s wrong, but that’s what they think the law says.

“We need to pass a law, to change it.”

He intends to host another forum in early May, with local advocates and speakers. 

The Central West Greens were the other host of Wednesday’s Bathurst forum.