11 September 2019

Van Ryn case highlights weakness in victims compo laws - again

| Ian Campbell
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Victims advocate Howard Brown. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Victims advocate Howard Brown. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The sentencing of already imprisoned Bega Valley paedophile Maurice Van Ryn will continue in Bega District Court on Friday (May 3) with Judge Sean Grant allowing extra time for submissions including a victims impact statement.

No further detail was added in court today, with Van Ryn pleading guilty last month to four charges of aggravated sexual intercourse with a person aged between 14 and 16 years.

The 63-year-old is currently serving 13 years in jail for abusing nine girls and boys in Southern NSW between 2003 and 2014. These new offences took place in 2010 and 2011.

What today’s court listing did highlight was the ongoing campaign inspired by Van Ryn’s victims to change Australia’s victim’s compensation laws.

“What perpetrators have been doing of late is putting all their funds into their superannuation accounts which are quarantined,” victims advocate Howard Brown says.

“We can get a judgment from a court saying that – he [any criminal] must pay us damages.

“But if he has no funds because he has put them all in his super account we [the victims of crime] can not touch those funds, we want that law changed.”

Minister Kelly O’Dwyer reads through the Change.org petition which attracted 21,314 signatures. Photo: supplied.

Minister Kelly O’Dwyer reads through the Change.org petition which attracted 21,314 signatures. Photo: supplied.

A petition that started in the Bega Valley in early 2018 attracted over 21,000 digital signatures via Change.org. Those listed called on the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services at the time, Kelly O’Dwyer to reform the laws.

“We initiated a review into these provisions late last year [2017] to see what changes needed to be made in order to provide those victims with compensation,” Minister O’Dwyer told Region Media at the time.

“I can announce that the Government will make changes to legislation to ensure that serious crimes, where there are victims of those serious crimes, will now be able to access the superannuation of those perpetrators.”

Today outside Bega Court, 12 months on from the Minister’s assurances Mr Brown says the matter has stalled and nothing has changed.

“Kelly O’Dwyer seemed particularly sympathetic to our cause, she was very keen to address it and indicated that they would do so before parliament for prorogued [the discontinuation of parliament ahead of the election].

“That didn’t happen and Kelly O’Dwyer has decided not to contest the election so the passion that she showed has been lost.”

Howard Brown addresses local media outside Bega Court House. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Howard Brown addresses local media outside Bega Court House. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A statement from Treasury says the matter is still a priority.

“The Government is taking steps to prevent the superannuation accounts of criminals from being used as a safe haven to protect their assets from the victims of their serious crimes,” the statement says.

“Treasury released a victim of crime consultation paper from 28 May to 15 June 2018 with two draft proposals:

(1) clawing back ‘out of character’ contributions to superannuation; and
(2) providing broader access to the perpetrator’s superannuation balance for victims of serious, violent crimes.

“The Government is carefully considering the feedback that was received during the consultation process. A Bill has not yet been introduced into Parliament due to the complexity of the issues involved and the importance of getting the settings right.”

If the change comes it will be too late for some of Van Ryn’s victims who reached a limited settlement with the former high profile dairy industry executive last year so that they could move on with their lives.

Those same families remain active in the campaign to change the law for others in the future.

Mr Brown says the Labor Party has said, “it might look into the matter.”

“My view is that no matter what happens in the election we’ll be forced to go back to Canberra on knock on doors all over again.

“We are not trying to make victims rich, what we are trying to do is bring them back to a point where they would have been had they not been a victim of crime.

“Our health suffers, all of which requires treatment, and that is very expensive.”

For support, information, and advice – Bravehearts, 1800 Respect, and Lifeline.

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