Limit to expansion of inquiry into state care abuse

I thought that the expansion of the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care to also cover ‘Faith-Based Institutions’ was a good thing, and it is, but it has significant limitations.

The Beehive announcement: Royal Commission of Inquiry scope expanded

Cabinet has today agreed to expand the scope of a proposed inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, to include the abuse of children in the care of faith-based institutions.

The Inquiry will be called the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions, to reflect its expanded scope. Its terms of reference were released this afternoon.

“Today paves the way for us to confront a dark chapter of our national history by acknowledging what happened to people in state care, and in the care of faith-based institutions, and to learn the lessons for the future,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“It was critical we got the Royal Commission right and the scope and purpose of this Inquiry has been carefully considered.

“Extending the scope so the Inquiry could look into both state care and in the care of faith-based institutions was one of the most strongly argued issues in the consultation process,” Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said.

“In broadening the scope we nevertheless remain committed to fulfilling the expectations of those who sought an inquiry into state care.

But earlier this week from Chris Morris, who has just received his award for his series in the ODT on abuse in Catholic schools in Dunedin: Widened inquiry ‘may not go far enough’

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunedin says an expanded royal commission into the abuse of children may not go far enough.

Bishop Michael Dooley said yesterday he was “relieved” to hear children abused while in the care of faith-based institutions would now be included.

But the terms of reference specifically excluded private settings for abuse involving faith-based institutions, and it remained unclear whether others – like a church presbytery or a priest’s car – were included.

And Morris followed up by pointing out what could be a significant limitation in Expansion ‘a bitter sweet milestone’

But the press release announcing the expansion also contained four key words that jumped off the page almost immediately, and could yet make all the difference — “in the care of”.

While the terms of reference clearly defined which state-care settings would be included, the section on faith-based institutions was less clear.

It said the inquiry would cover areas where a faith-based institution “assumed responsibility for the care of an individual”.

Faith-based schools and residential and non-residential settings for faith-based care were included.

But fully private settings — except where the person was also in the care of a faith-based institution — were out, it said.

Exactly what else was covered remains open to interpretation, and nobody is yet prepared to say.

Would the inquiry, for example, include the actions of a rogue priest who abuses young parishioners or altar boys in a church presbytery, on day trips to the countryside, or while visiting the homes of his parishioners?

If not, the victims of Dunedin’s paedophile priest, Fr Magnus Murray, would be excluded.

And neither would the inquiry cover the actions of the Catholic Church, which moved Fr Murray to Australia, then brought him back to resume public ministry in New Zealand, exposing more young boys to abuse.

The inquiry must have some limits, but this could be a significant one.

Which would be a shame, as the Catholic Church has welcomed the inclusion of abuse in their church. They seem to have belatedly recognised that they have handled claims of abuse poorly, and need outside help in dealing with it.

There is a lack of clarity on what the expansion of the Royal Commission will cover:

Ms Ardern and Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin have been reluctant to answer ODT Insight questions in recent months.

Before the expanded inquiry was announced, they said it was not appropriate to comment while the terms of reference were considered.

After Monday’s announcement, they referred questions to the Royal Commission, saying it was “their place to comment from here on”.

A Royal Commission spokeswoman could not answer questions either, saying only the terms of reference would be reviewed to decide what was included.

Perhaps there is enough scope in the terms to properly investigate abuse by priests.


Deservedly: ‘ODT’ award winner named

Otago Daily Times reporter Chris Morris has been named the newspaper’s 2018 Valpy Rosebowl Trophy winner for his investigative reporting in the ODT series Mark of the Cross.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Griff.

     /  November 18, 2018

    Abuse of those in care was the original intent not the wider question of abuse in society at large. There must be limits on the terms of reference or it will get bogged down into side issues like abuse in the scouts or sports clubs. Keep the Royal Commission of Inquiry focused on abuse in care.

    Abuse within the Catholic Church is a separate issue that does need to be brought into the open. The church has proven in the past it can not be trusted to police its members or honestly address complaints. The Catholic church should be forced to fully fund a separate fully independent commission into its handling of abuse and recompense for those it allowed to be abused.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  November 18, 2018

      I agree. There is nothing to suggest that the ability to launch a police investigation into any complaint of sexual or other abuse by any member of a religious group on an individual basis is being constrained in any way. This seems to be a beat up over nothing.

      Reply
  2. PartisanZ

     /  November 18, 2018

    @PG – “Which would be a shame, as the Catholic Church has welcomed the inclusion of abuse in their church. They seem to have belatedly recognised that they have handled claims of abuse poorly, and need outside help in dealing with it.”

    Really!? You trust them at their word!?

    I hate to bring up ‘what’s his name’ first comment up, but this is a bit like saying –

    “The Nazis welcomed the inclusion of crimes against humanity, once the concentration camps had been discovered and liberated, recognising they may have handled ‘extermination’ poorly and needed outside help dealing with it.”

    Reply
  3. Noel

     /  November 18, 2018

    So millions on a Royal Commission for what outcome ?
    Apology and a monolith in some park listing the names of those abused.

    Reply
  1. Limit to expansion of inquiry into state care abuse — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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