A lawyer who fought the Catholic Church for 250 men who were abused in WA boys' homes says the royal commission into child sex abuse must end the Church's protection from being sued.
Slater & Gordon general manager Hayden Stephens said the WA Christian Brothers scandal exposed in the 1990s showed how the Church used the legal system to stymie compensation claims.
The Federal Government has flagged victims will be able to pursue claims without obstacles as part of its royal commission into child sex abuse.
This would hurt the Catholic Church because court cases have found it is not a legal entity and so is exempt from civil actions.
The Church is the only religious organisation with this exemption because of the way it was originally structured in Australia. It does not have similar protection overseas.
The Christian Brothers case helped set this precedent when Church lawyers successfully argued that then archbishop Barry Hickey could not be liable for the actions of the Brothers. The compensation claim was heard in NSW, where the Brothers were based, because WA had a six-year deadline for civil actions, which has been reduced to three years.
Boys, many child migrants, were abused at Bindoon, Castledare, Clontarf and Tardun institutions in the 1940s to 1970s.
Despite the ruling, the Brothers agreed to set up a $5 million trust fund for victims, who could apply for payments of $5000 to $50,000.
Mr Stephens said the legal protection that was the "cornerstone" of the Church's defence against sex abuse claims had to end.
He said the Church and Christian Brothers used every possible technical defence in WA to ensure claims could not reach court where they could be heard on their merits.
Mr Stephens also urged the commission to examine limitation laws, saying WA victims cannot seek an extension of time from a judge, unlike in other States.
WA Attorney-General Michael Mischin said the principles behind the law of limitations in WA were common to other States, including extending time limits. Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said she would not rule in or out ending the Church's legal protection.
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