NSW 'no model' for abuse cases

NSW Crown solicitors told child sex abuse survivors seeking redress they had to prove their case all over again even though their abuser had been jailed.

A senior NSW government solicitor admits state lawyers shouldn't have asked women to prove they were sexually abused as children when the man who terrorised them was already in jail for his crimes.

Helen Allison, senior solicitor at the NSW Crown Solicitor's Office, supervised the defence of a civil claim brought by 15 plaintiffs who were physically and sexually abused at Bethcar Children's Home in Brewarrina, in the 1970s and `80s.

On the second day of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing into Bethcar, Ms Allison was answering questions about the state's legal strategy when 14 women and one man sought redress and an apology.

In defending the claim, lodged in 2008, the state legal team took a tough stance - denying liability and drawing out proceedings, the commission heard.

They wanted each case tested separately and plaintiffs were asked to prove the abuse although one perpetrator, Colin Gibson, was jailed in 2007 on two sentences of 12 years and 18 years.

Ms Allison was asked if it was hypocritical to ask the plaintiffs to prove their case when the perpetrator had been convicted and jailed.

"I believe it should not have been done but I don't believe it's hypocritical," Ms Allison said.

Ms Allison conceded that forcing some of the plaintiffs to prove allegations when they had been established was not the right thing to do.

In a long list of NSW model litigant responsibilities is one that requires that the other party not have to prove a matter which the State or an agency knows to be true.

A second alleged abuser, Burt Gordon, died before the case against him reached court.

It has also been revealed the department had documents from 1980 showing Terry Madden, a Brewarrina-based officer for the Department of Community Services, was concerned about Bethcar.

Mr Madden had taken girls to police, but they were returned to the home after that interview and were beaten. They changed their story on the second police interview.

The commission heard at one stage the state sought a permanent stay on the case without disclosing in an affidavit to the court all it knew, including that Mr Madden was prepared to give evidence.

Earlier on Thursday Janet Loughman, principal solicitor for the Women's Legal Service who represented 13 of the Bethcar plaintiffs, said the state approach to the civil litigation launched in 2008 was to "avoid liability at all costs, no matter how egregious the matters raised".

She also said that at times it appeared "they were trying to wear the plaintiffs down or make it so difficult that we would give up".

At the end of his cross-examination of Ms Loughman, Paul Menzies QC for the State of NSW announced the government would introduce more flexibility in its model litigant responsibilities and on limitation periods.

The case continues on Friday.

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