So, George Pell appeared via teleconference to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse in Australia today, and had the audacity to compare the catholic church to a trucking company, claiming that:
If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, “I don’t think it appropriate for the ownership leadership of that company be held responsible.”
It’s an audacious claim, and it perhaps speaks more of the morals of Mr Pell than it does of the actual legal culpability of such a company in such a situation.
First, companies are indeed held legally responsible for the behaviour of their employees when their employees are at work (which presumably a sexually assaulting truck driver working for a trucking company might be). That’s why companies have to pay indemnity insurance, it’s why people do sue employers in situations where employees behave egregiously, after all.
But the situation is a little less singular than Pell’s evidence would seem to suggest.
Forgetting for the moment that a trucking company could be held legally responsible in such a singular situation, let’s consider the real practicality of the matter: if said trucking company had known (or even merely suspected) their employee was raping passengers and dealt with it by moving the employee to another city, another state, or even at times, another country in order to silence the problem, and continue to place the employee in a role where he might be able to continue to pick up passengers, then it has in fact assumed a role of active culpability, of aiding and abetting crime.
With a bit of luck the Royal Commission will put the brakes on Pell’s little trucking company.