SEPTEMBER 03, 2011
Nigel Hunt -Sunday Mail (SA)
FOR a decade, Bill Simmons's life was beatings and sexual assaults by those who were meant to care for him.
Placed in state care when he was just 11 months old, he was first raped when he was six and his last beating was at 17.
Now 64, Mr Simmons, now retired and living in the Perth suburb of Dianella, still carries the legacy of those dreadful years. Like hundreds of others who suffered while in state care, Mr Simmons has sought compensation for the abuse he suffered - only to find that because of his age, his options are limited.
A quirk in the legislation means that because he was born before May 19, 1948, his claim has "run out of time" and there is no provision under the Limitation of Actions Act to ask the court to extend this time.
With no possibility of court action, Mr Simmons lodged a claim under the State Government's redress scheme that provides ex-gratia payments of up to $50,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund.
To his astonishment, Mr Simmons has just been offered, via a letter from the Crown Solicitor's office, an ex-gratia payment of $12,500 - less than $1000 for every year of his ordeal while in state care.
Bitterly disappointed at the offer, Mr Simmons says he will not accept it and wants his case reassessed.
"I'm disgusted" he said yesterday. "I was treated like a piece of rubbish from the age of six and this is what it is worth."
Mr Simmons' ordeal has been fully documented in his statement to the Mullighan Inquiry, which detailed his treatment at the notorious Glandore Boys Home and Struan Farm, in the South-East. One of his abusers was boys' home employee Frank Ireland, who was convicted of abusing boys at the home in 1958 and subsequently committed suicide while in prison.
Mr Simmons questioned how the figure offered to him was arrived at by those who administer the redress scheme.
He says he would have taken action in the District Court if he could have, rather than use that scheme. "I would love to stand up in court and tell these people what happened not just to me, but hundreds of others," he said.
"The Government needs to recognise what these people did, rather than just minimise their financial exposure to it."
Duncan Basheer Hannon lawyer Peter Humphries said he had directed 15 abuse victims into the redress scheme since its inception. Of those, offers had been made in four cases ranging from $7000 to $20,000.
He said the main concerns about the scheme included the fact there was no right of review of any payout. "The process is not open and victims have no way of knowing how any figure is actually arrived at," he said.
Attorney-General John Rau has so far made 68 decisions on applications for compensation.
Of those, offers of ex-gratia payments have been made in 47 cases, with 42 victims accepting the offer. There have been 38 payments made so far.
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