Abuse inquiry's scope wider

Rev Michael Dooley. Photo: ODT files
Rev Michael Dooley. Photo: ODT files
New Zealand's pending royal commission into historical abuse will include the actions of predator priests who targeted children in family homes, on day trips and in other out-of-church settings, it has been confirmed.

The outcome, announced yesterday, has been praised by survivors advocate Liz Tonks and the Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, the Most Rev Michael Dooley.

Ms Tonks, a spokeswoman for the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions and their Supporters, told ODT Insight she was delighted by the news.

"We are really pleased the commission has listened to survivors and their supporters and the network and been prepared to consider the need to change.

"Survivors have been anxiously waiting for reassurance that their inclusion is not dependent on where the abuse took place.

"This is what they were asking for.''

Bishop Dooley was also positive about the clarification of the inquiry's scope, saying it would help encourage survivors to come forward.

"From my perspective as a bishop it is important that people feel safe to come forward to report abuse and the clarification seems to encourage people to do that,'' he said.

Their comments came after a two-page "plain English'' version of the terms of reference for the upcoming royal commission into historical abuse was published on the royal commission's website yesterday.

The inquiry was initially to focus on abuse in state care, but a campaign by survivors and advocates resulted in the Government announcing an expanded inquiry, including faith-based settings, in November.

However, advocates worried the terms of reference, which focused on those abused while "in the care of'' faith-based institutions, could still result in many survivors being excluded.

They worried the term "in the care of'' would exclude the actions of a paedophile priest such as Fr Magnus Murray, convicted of abusing four Dunedin boys in family homes, the presbytery and on trips.

The documents published yesterday made it clear the royal commission would go further and examine any situation where the state or a faith-based institution "took responsibility for looking after a person''.

That meant religious schools, orphanages and other church settings would all be covered.

And so, too, would other cases - such as a priest offending against a child in a church setting, on a day trip or while visiting a family home.

All were now considered to be within the scope of the inquiry, a royal commission spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

The inquiry would focus on abuse between 1950 and 1999, but might also consider events before or after those dates, including those in care now.

Ms Tonks said her group would be pushing for the cut-off dates to be dropped completely.

That was "essential'' to ensure the commission had all the information it needed to determine how well systems were working now to prevent further abuse, she said.



Thank you CHRIS MORRIS for investigating and reporting this very important subject which is a national scandal and shame. Your work is to be applauded and helps ordinary people understand what has happened to people in the churches. Thanks again.