Monday, 24 March 2014
Disability Justice Plan Delayed is Justice Denied
The evidence given at the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Adelaide today and last week reinforces the need for South Australia’s Disability Justice Plan to be enacted, says Kelly Vincent MLC.
The Royal Commission has been hearing evidence about the response of the Catholic Church and SA Police to the St Ann’s school case of 1993, in which a school bus driver abused up to 30 students with intellectual disabilities.
The evidence given at the hearing tells a tale of allegations ignored, aborted investigations and justice hampered by budgetary matters that resulted in victims and their families waiting almost a decade to see the perpetrator convicted.
“If the voices of the victims had recognised means of speaking out in the justice system, it is likely this matter would have been taken more seriously,” said Ms Vincent. “Tragically, South Australia’s laws discriminate against people with disabilities and they had no way of speaking up.”
“The perpetrator in the St Ann’s case, Brian Perkins, largely targeted victims who had different methods of communication. This is consistent with statistics that show people with disabilities are four – seven times more likely to suffer abuse.
“It was clear in 1993 and it is still clear now, that South Australia urgently needs to address the barriers in the justice system that stop people with disabilities from having equal rights.”
Dignity for Disability has been working with Attorney-General John Rau to develop legislative and cultural changes that will begin to redress the issues. Earlier this year Mr Rau released a document entitled the Disability Justice Plan outlining a plan for implementing these changes.
“The evidence heard at the Royal Commission only reinforces how important these changes are,” says Ms Vincent. “For the protection of the rights of people with a disability, I am calling on Premier Weatherill to ensure that the Disability Justice Plan is implemented without delay.”