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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

Insurer loses discrimination fight over child sex offender

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NRMA Insurance discriminated against a child sex offender by refusing to insure his gardening business because of his criminal act, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ruled.

The IAG-owned business relied on an “irrelevant criminal record” to decide against providing the man’s business with public liability insurance, the tribunal says in a ruling published this week on its website.

NRMA Insurance is reviewing the decision, a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au. The case has been listed for submissions on remedy on July 26.

During his first attempt to buy the insurance policy in April last year, the Canberra man disclosed to the insurer that he was facing a criminal proceeding.

A few months later, after he had been convicted of the crime and had a three-year good behaviour bond imposed – which he is currently serving – the insurer rejected his second attempt to obtain public liability cover.

At the time of his unsuccessful bids for cover, the man already had personal lines policies in place with NRMA Insurance.

He subsequently lodged a complaint with the ACT Human Rights Commission, which referred it to the tribunal.

IAG said the decisions were based on its internal Moral Code and the group’s “moral risk” underwriting guidelines.

Under the guidelines, IAG reserves the right to decline commercial insurance to an applicant with a criminal history within the 10-year period immediately preceding the application.

IAG submitted that its refusal was based on a belief that “people with serious criminal convictions were perceived as constituting so great a risk that they could not be insured,” the ruling noted.

But when pressed by the tribunal to provide actuarial data to support its assertion that criminals carry a higher risk, the insurer could not do so.

“Accordingly, the tribunal is satisfied on the evidence before it that [NRMA Insurance] has refused the service of insurance to [the man] on the basis of a moral assessment, guided by the moral guidelines, and not on the basis of any relevant actuarial considerations,” the ruling says.

“The tribunal is satisfied that the [insurer] has discriminated against the [man] by refusing to supply him with commercial insurance because of an irrelevant criminal record.”