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Salvation Army abuse claims mount

Published: 7:38PM Tuesday August 26, 2003

Claims of abuse are starting to pile up for the Salvation Army - a church group renowned for its work across New Zealand.

ONE News earlier revealed the story of an Auckland man who claimed abuse in a Salvation Army home decades ago - since then, the tally of alleged abuses now being investigated has risen to 36 cases.

Salvation Army Commissioner Shaw Clifton says more details are coming to light.

"An over-harsh regime of corporal punishment, and we're hearing stories of staff members being far too enthusiastic about that and taking matters much, much too far. Then there's a minority of calls, but nevertheless highly significant calls, which allege episodes of sexual abuse."

A week ago the Salvation Army was investigating eight complaints of abuse from children who grew up in its homes in the 50s, 60s and 70s - it is now investigating 28 more.

Some are allegations of sexual abuse by older boys against younger boys, but most are allegations of abuse by staff.

The majority of complaints originate from the Hodderville Boys' Home in the Waikato town of Putaruru and Whatman Children's Home in Masterton.

In Australia the Salvation Army has just apologised for 43 cases of abuse and paid nearly $1 million in compensation.

The Salvation Army in New Zealand says most of its alleged victims have not asked for compensation yet, but the organisation admits the claims, if proven, could be costly.

Clifton says it is an eventuality which must be considered.

"It could turn out that way, but we're ready and we're not going to duck and weave on this. I want it all brought out and put on the table."

The Salvation Army plans to meet face to face with anyone who claims they have been abused.

Some complainants are in turn speaking to lawyers. Several spoken to by ONE News say they want formal written apologies and substantial compensation.