Germany: Plans for compensation in abuse scandal

BERLIN (AP) — Germany will set up a plan to compensate victims of sexual abuse and impose new rules to prevent such crimes in the future, using funds from the institutions responsible for the abuse, a minister said Friday.

After a spate of abuse allegations in the Roman Catholic church and elsewhere, a government-led panel has started debating the issue and is hoping for a decision by the end of the year, Family Minister Kristina Schroeder said.

"I am convinced at the end of this process, there will be suggestions for material and immaterial compensation," Schroeder said.

She also said government financing for institutions dealing with children could be made contingent upon the adoption of clear rules preventing child abuse, including measures to prevent pedophiles from being hired, naming a person of trust for children and setting clear rules on when to inform prosecutors.

While most experts agree that alerting prosecutors in cases of abuse is the right way to go, it gets tricky if the victims object, she said.

"The victim's interest must be at the center of attention," she said.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said most victims are wary of making it an offense not to alert prosecutors about sex abuse. She also said expanding the statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes did not seem to be a top priority for victims.

"But it is on the table and we will talk about it," she said.

The government has no reliable overview of all the different abuse cases in schools, congregations and children's homes that have come to light since January, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

But the Catholic church alone has registered some 18,000 calls to its sexual abuse hot line and its experts have talked to 1,600 people individually, she said.

The government announced in March that over 60 experts from ministries, the church and charities will offer concrete recommendations on the abuse scandal. They talked for about three hours at their first meeting Friday, and will now split up into smaller groups, Schroeder said.

Education Minister Annette Schavan they group discussed improved training for teachers and doctors on the subject of child abuse.

The Catholic church's coordinator for abuse matters, Bishop Stephan Ackermann, applauded the outcome of the first "Round Table" meeting and said "there was no accusing sub-tone against the Catholic church."

But one man who says he was abused, Norbert Denef of a group called NetzwerkB, criticized the Round Table meeting.

"We don't see ourselves represented, we want to represent ourselves," he said of abuse victims.

Schroeder said other groups representing victims had been present at the meeting.