Slater & Gordon's military compensation team has received a significant increase in inquiries in the wake of the latest Australian Defence Force (ADF) Skype sex scandal.
The leader of Slater & Gordon's military compensation practice Brian Briggs said the widespread media coverage over the Skype incident has helped individuals to feel more confident in coming forward.
"There has been a significant increase in new client enquiries. Not hundreds or thousands but it's only early days yet. The enquiries are coming out of the woodwork and some are ones that we wouldn't normally see coming through," he said. "Certainly, they're probably not as hesitant to come forward and make claims."
The flood of inquiries comes as the Defence Minister Stephen Smith this week admitted on Channel 10's Meet the Press that the Commonwealth Government may be liable for incidences of abuse and sexual assault, amid claims that abuse in the ADF may go back as far as 40 years.
"There is a distinct possibility, either in individual cases or more generally, that through the Department of Defence or through the services, there is a Commonwealth liability here," Smith told Channel 10.
"That is why I say we need to proceed carefully. We need to make sure we respect all the rights of the people who are either complaining or raising issues."
Amid talk of a class action, Smith claimed that any allegations of mistreatment will be referred to an external group of lawyers for an initial assessment.
"I do not rule out in that context any further legal or judicial activity so far as those complaints or allegations are concerned," he said.
While emotions are running high in the wake of the mass media coverage, Briggs noted the associated difficulties with making claims, some of which are made many years after the relevant event.
According to Briggs, significant delays in claims must be explained - a task which is made more difficult with the absence of contemporaneous records.
Adding to those difficulties, Briggs said, is the emotional toll such claims can take on victims.
"One of the dangers and one of the problems you have is that this re-opens old wounds," he said. "It's been a difficult time for a number of people that I have spoken to in the last week."
Welcoming the Defence Minister's actions, Briggs suggested the Department of Veteran Affairs may now be more sympathetic to claims.
"The Department of Veteran Affairs might have been a bit more harsh before. They might now be more sympathetic - I don't know - but it's a good thing that people feel they can come out and seek legal advice about what happened to them," he said.
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