SA Government backflip lets failed kids sue

Law Society of SA: New child protection Bill is fatally flawed
Chloe Valentine’s grandmother explains why urgent changes needed.  Lawyers slam new child protection Bill.

THE State Government has been forced injto another embarrassing backflip after being caught out attempting to stop young victims, who have been failed by the child protection system, from suing for compensation.

New child protection laws drafted by the Government would have given it immunity from civil claims for compensation by victims who were failed by the Child Protection Department.

However, the Law Society and Opposition yesterday raised concerns about the “unprecedented” move, prompting a reversal by Child Protection Reform Minister John Rau last night.

Mr Rau told The Advertiser he had “considered the matter” and would “amend the Bill accordingly”.

It is the latest in a series of changes to the Government’s Bill following pressure from interest groups.

Opposition Deputy Leader Vickie Chapman said the original wording of the Government’s Bill would have meant children who were abused or put at risk through departmental negligence would have been unable to lodge a civil claim for compensation.

“It’s absolutely reprehensible that they attempted to do this. It’s all about protecting the department,” Ms Chapman said.

“It’s not consistent with any recommendation by (royal commissioner) Margaret Nyland.”

The new legislation was drafted after the release of Ms Nyland’s comprehensive inquiry into the state’s child protection system last year.

The inquiry was sparked by the arrest of former government carer Shannon McCoole.

He was sentenced in late 2015 to 35 years jail for abusing seven young children in state care while also acting as the head of an international child pornography ring.

Ms Chapman said the Government’s attempt to change the law would have meant “they could have another Shannon McCoole and still have no civil liability, whereas at the moment there are people lining up for compensation because of the Shannon McCoole case.

“This was a clause to exempt the minister, the Crown, the chief executive officer and any staff member (from civil liability),” she said.

Law Society of SA president Tony Rossi yesterday told a parliamentary committee examining the legislation that it would have sought “to provide, effectively, an immunity from a civil damages claim to officers of the department in relation to any injury, loss or damage sustained by a child as a result of the negligence of the department”.

“Noting how many children have suffered already as a result of the negligence of this department, it is extraordinary,” he said.

MPs will next debate the legislation later this month.

Source : http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/child-protection-sa-government-backflip-lets-failed-kids-sue/news-story/e025c9eeeef6013b8ec2d1d38c7f0017?nk=bcc4f742f79a48f63b025d33c6eaf893-1489281886


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