New inquiry may result in criminal charges for hundreds of Catholic clergy.

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New inquiry may result in criminal charges for hundreds of Catholic clergy.

Hundreds of people may be charged with child abuse thanks to a royal commission that advocates say has already helped victims achieve some justice by uncovering the truth.

The five-year inquiry has referred 2559 matters to the authorities, mostly the police.

So far 204 prosecutions have been commenced.

Hundreds more are currently under investigation and hundreds are awaiting investigation.

However, the royal commission has cautioned that in many cases the matters may not result in prosecutions because the offender has died or there are other difficulties in commencing criminal proceedings.

Lawyer, researcher and advocate Judy Courtin says the royal commission has helped victims achieve many of the necessary elements of justice, of which financial compensation is only one part.

“They wanted their truth to be out there and to be acknowledged. Equally they wanted the truth to be told from the hierarchy in the church,” Dr Courtin said.

She said her research into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church showed accountability of the hierarchy was even more important than holding the offenders themselves to account.

Child protection advocate Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said every day of the five-year inquiry has helped heal victims.

Ms Johnston said common criticisms that royal commissions cost a lot of money, take a lot of time and do not result in much have been proven wrong.

“There has been no royal commission like this one,” she said.

“There is no amount of money that can be greater than the healing that the commission has delivered for thousands upon thousands of survivors who have never before been heard or believed.”

The inquiry has given victims greater acknowledgement, advocacy group In Good Faith Foundation CEO Helen Last said.

“They have not experienced that so far from the institutional responses – to get a deep sense of acknowledgement, an experience of being valued, being vindicated and being held in a very strong process that will carry their issues forward, that they themselves could never achieve.”