STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL 12.00 MIDNIGHT ON TUESDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2003
COMPENSATION FOR CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Fr. Martin Clarke, the Principal Spokesperson for the Irish Bishops’ Conference has issued the
following statement regarding the funding of legal liabilities arising from compensation claims
for child sexual abuse:
- It has always been the practice of Bishops to put in place public liability insurance cover against insurable risks. Each parish maintains insurance cover against public liability risks. Church & General Insurance Company has been the traditional Catholic diocesan insurer in Ireland. Indeed the company was formed by the Catholic hierarchy at the beginning of the last century. Whilst Church & General was, at one time, in Church ownership, the shareholding of the Bishops today is nominal.
- Between 1987 and 1990 most dioceses obtained separate insurance policies from Church & General against the eventuality of legal liability accruing to a diocese from acts of child sexual abuse by priests. The policy cover, which did not provide protection to alleged perpetrators, was subject to strict financial limits and policy conditions.
- In 1995 serious legal issues arose between the Bishops of each diocese and Church & General regarding the entitlement of dioceses to indemnity, in respect of civil claims for damages arising from clerical child sexual abuse, under the policies of insurance then in place.
- These issues were resolved in 1996 on terms which included the payment of a single sum of £3.4m (€4.3m) for division among the dioceses. Rather than apportion it, the Bishops decided to place this sum in a trust fund which they established -“The Stewardship Trust”. The Trust is empowered to provide financial assistance to Bishops towards the cost of legal liabilities arising from abuse claims. The Trust also funds child protection and other victim response initiatives undertaken at national level by the Bishops’ Conference.
- Each diocese is legally separate and is individually accountable in respect of any legal liability arising from claims of this nature and is eligible to apply to the Trust for financial assistance towards the expenditure which it incurs on such claims. The Trustees of the Stewardship Trust are the four Archbishops of Ireland. All applications to the Trust for financial assistance come before an independent committee with a lay chairman.
- In 1999 following further negotiations between the Bishops and Church & General regarding the question of insurance cover, Church & General, in full and final settlement, agreed to pay to the Bishops additional sums up to a maximum of £5m (€6.3m) towards the cost of child sexual abuse claims against dioceses.
- No insurance cover exists in respect of any liabilities which accrue to dioceses in respect of incidents of child sexual abuse which occurred prior to 1996. However, since 1999, each diocese has in place an insurance policy against any legal liability which it may have for incidents of child sexual abuse shown to have occurred after 1996.
4 February 2003