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Killer, creeps slipping through loose child safety net

A mother who threatened to kill her daughter while strangling her, a father who killed his stepson, thugs and fiends have all been given the green light to work with children.
The Herald Sun has discovered thousands of children as young as 12 are being forced to undergo criminal checks supposed to stop sex predators working with kids.
And a privacy loophole means accused sex offenders or serious criminals could be left working with children without their organisations knowing.
Critics say a system that allows serious offenders through the net while minors undergo checks
Court records reveal a man who when 30 years old raped a 14-year-old boy; another adult who lured a 14-year-old girl into bush before raping her; and a man who molested a 16-year-old staying at his bed and breakfast after sneaking into his bedroom.
Yet documents released to the Herald Sun under Freedom of Information show more than 10,000 minors aged 17 or under have been vetted by police since the checks were introduced to help protect children under 18 years of age.
They include volunteer sport coaches and umpires, those helping out at study and training programs or even church youth group leaders.
The revelation has sparked calls for checks on children to stop.
Since 2006, minors have paid some $700,000 in fees, with each check now costing $80. Only one teen - a 17-year-old - has had his application refused.
Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary said children should not have to undergo costly police checks to work with other children.
"We need to be looking at this in a common sense way and inform young people who apply (for a check) that they don't need to have one.''
Mr Geary said over zealous organisations and those who "just want a Working With Children card'' had been an issue since the scheme's inception.
In one VCAT appeal deputy president Heather Lambrick complained that employers were also increasingly trying to use the system to screen employees even when there was no need for them to have contact with children.
And Community groups say a loophole allows permit holders to change the recorded name of the organisation they are associated with without actually leaving it and, due to privacy laws, without that organisation being informed.
They said this could result in a worker accused of a sex crime or other serious offence continuing to work with children at the original organisation as it would not get an automatic notification - one of the systems key features.
Scouts Victoria executive manager Martin Thomas said loopholes should be closed as quickly as possible and telling an organisation if one of its people changed their organisation details should be automatic.
Foster Care Association of Victoria executive officer Katie Hooper said she was worried volunteers could slip through loopholes.
"If somebody already has a Working With Children check I could register them and they could volunteer at my organisation, but I might not then know if they were a murderer or something later on."
The Government has moved to toughen the appeals process by requiring VCAT to be satisfied a reasonable person would let their child have unsupervised direct contact with an applicant.before overturning a permit refusal.
Attorney General Robert Clark said the government had become increasingly concerned about the system it inherited.
"The tests that apply under the current law are too focused on the interests of the individuals who apply for checks rather than on the interests of children and their families."
Mr Clark said future changes would focus on ensuring the welfare of children and their families was the top priority.
However, a spokesman said there were no plans to halt the flood of children being subjected to police checks for which there was no legal requirement.

Herald Sun (12-3-2012)
Peter Mickelburough

We must protect the child

Yesterday's ruling by VCAT to allow a convicted killer to work with children will shock parents.
It follows the report in the Herald Sun last week of nearly 300 cases where permits for people convicted of crimes, ranging from child abuse to stalking and loitering near schools, were revoked. The check process is now under urgent review by the Victorian Government.
Yesterday's shock VCAT ruling came after a man who was jailed for six years for manslaughter was initially refused a permit by the Department of Justice.
VCAT originally upheld the department decision, but the case was sent back after a long legal battle using taxpayers' money.
The former drug user and welfare cheat, who stabbed a man to death, is now free to work for a charity group after VCAT accepted supporting evidence.
But whatever consideration is to be given to those who have been convicted of violent crimes, greater consideration needs to be given to the children who may find themselves under their care.

Herald Sun (8-2-2012)

VCAT clears 44 sex crims

A Salvation Army officer who worked closely with children for more than 20 years is one of hundreds of pedophiles and violent criminals found secretly working in Victorian schools, community groups and sporting associations.
The man, aged in his 40s, resigned from the Salvos after being charged with indecently assaulting two young boys.
The Salvos re-appointed him after his court appearances in 1998 and recently allowed him to apply for a Working With Children Check to continue working with boys and girls.
The man, known only as "QTR", has now been banned by the State Government from working with children and had an appeal before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal thrown out.
New figures obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun reveal more than 436 people deemed a sexual or physical danger to children have been banned by the Government from working with youths since April 2006.
There were 165 people banned between July last year and May 31.
But 44 Victorians deemed too dangerous to work with children by the Government saw VCAT overturn the bans.
VCAT has allowed at least 12 convicted sex fiends and criminals to continue working with children since January 1 last year including:
A MAN convicted of four counts of indecent assault and obscene exposure involving several female victims, one only 12 years old, cleared to train children in martial arts and;
A MAN aged in his late 30s who indecently assaulted his two young nieces cleared to volunteer at sporting and school camps with his young daughters.
In the past 18 months, 21 sex offenders and violent criminals have gone to VCAT to appeal after the Justice Department refused their applications to work with children.
VCAT rejected the appeals from eight men and one woman, finding they posed an unacceptable risk.
These cases included a married man in his 60s who pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a 15-year-old boy in a public toilet 33 years ago.
The tribunal heard "QTR" spent 20 years as an officer and in leadership roles with the Salvos.
But VCAT vice-president Justice Marilyn Harbison said he had "a terrible secret".
"Over approximately a 12-month period in 1983 and 1984, when he was aged 21 and 22 years, he indecently assaulted two young boys on many occasions," she said.
The man also received a good behaviour bond in 1991 for propositioning a man in a public toilet for sex.
Salvation Army spokesman Major Brad Halse said the charity was aware of the ban on "QTR", but could not go into specifics of the case.
"If our people have anything to do with children they now have to go through the whole Working With Children process and if they can't tick the boxes there is not an opportunity to work or serve with the Salvation Army," he said.
"We're very strong on that and, like most organisations that are church based, increasingly so."
The Government introduced the Working With Children Check in 2006 to assist in protecting children from sexual and physical harm.
More than 624,236 permits have been issued since, with 300,728 to people employed to work with youths and 323,508 to volunteers.
Under legislation, the Department of Justice automatically issues a negative notice to someone who, as an adult, has been convicted or found guilty of committing a sex offence against a child, or of child pornography charges.

Sunday Herald Sun (11-7-2011)
Peter Rolfe/ Ellen Whinnet

VCAT gives molester the right to work with children

A convicted child sex offender who molested a boy while he slept has been given the green light to work with kids because it is in the "public interest" and a lack of proof he "is a predator".
The man successfully appealed for the right to work with kids despite admitting sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy while his mother slept next door.
The Herald Sun cannot name the man, who is now free to follow plans to work with education providers.
The State Government rejected the man's application, but because the sex offender has shown "shame, remorse and empathy for his victim", and had "come to terms with his sexual identity", VCAT granted his application.
The State Government is considering an appeal.
The offence happened in 2005 when the 16-year-old boy was staying at the man's bed-and-breakfast.
After the boy went to sleep, the man crept into his room and indecently assaulted him.
If the offender committed the offence today, he would be put on the Sex Offenders Register for eight years.
He pleaded guilty in 2006 but was spared jail, receiving a $1500 fine.
The man - who works in the hospitality industry - applied to the State Government for a certificate to work with children.
The Government rejected his application, leading him to appeal to VCAT.
In fighting the application, state government lawyers argued the man had no references from employers or friends.
But in her judgment, VCAT vice-president Judge Sandra Davis said the man, now in his 50s, "was depressed at the time, withdrawn and isolated, and suffering after the break-up of his first homosexual relationship".
Judge Davis also ruled that although the age gap between his teenage victim "is significant, it is also relevant that the victim was not a very young child, which would exacerbate the offence".
She also pointed to psychologist reports that found the offence happened because of "his low self-esteem and his inner conflict about his own sexuality", and was a low-risk of reoffending.
The psychologist report also found it was significant the offender "had no interest in pornography or involvement with minors", and that while his assault on the boy was "predatory", he was not a predator.
In approving his application, Judge Davis said she was "satisfied that it is in the public interest to give the applicant the assessment notice he seeks".
"I am satisfied ... that giving an assessment notice would not pose an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children," she said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said: "The Department of Justice opposes the granting of a Working with Children Check in this application.
"The Department of Justice is assessing VCAT's decision and is seeking legal advice on any grounds for further review."

Herald Sun (16-6-2011)
Paul Tatnell

Creeps given the green light to work with kids

A sex creep who stalked young girls in his car has been cleared to do voluntary work with children. A tribunal overruled a government ban on the man, known only as "Mr BGD", despite his victims being as young as 11.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal has allowed at least 29 people to be granted working-with-children certificates despite being deemed unfit by the State Government.
Documents obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun through Freedom of Information laws reveal pedophiles, perverts caught with child porn and killers are among those banned by the Brumby Government from working with children, but approved by VCAT.
When Mr BGD applied for a clearance to work with children he did not reveal his conviction for sex crimes, according to a tribunal document.
The middle-aged man confessed to the Justice Department after police checks showed he was convicted of five counts of wilful and obscene exposure in 1989, the document says.
Mr BGD, whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, drove past his victims at walking pace while masturbating. Sometimes he was fully naked and at other times wore only a shirt, it says.
VCAT vice-president Judge Marilyn Harbison said in her judgment that Mr BGD exposed himself to children aged 11 and 13 over three months in 1988.
She said that at the time of the offences he was a pressured union delegate and in a "bizarre attempt" to cope with stress started driving around the streets at night.
"On some of these occasions of driving, for inexplicable reasons, he took off his clothes while driving and exposed his genitals, apparently on at least one occasion masturbating as he did so," she said.
Judge Harbison said the man had psychological counselling and had led an "exemplary life" since his sex offences.
"He has been active in assisting various children's and youth organisations," she said.
She said the department's ban on him working with children was harsh because he could never "escape the burden of his past".
"There is also a significant public interest in allowing (him) to resume his community involvement with children's organisations, given his excellent record of past service," she said.
Among other cases, a man busted by police trying to hire a hitman to murder his wife was been given VCAT approval to work with children, despite being knocked back by the Government.
The Government has issued about 400,000 Working With Children approvals since it introduced the scheme in 2006 to help protect children under 18 years from physical or sexual harm.
The Government has rejected at least 711 applications from adults who have committed a sexual offence against a child or are judged an "unjustifiable risk to the safety of children". But between September 2007 and September last year, VCAT overturned a string of applications from predators the Government deemed too dangerous to work with minors.
Most crimes were committed between the 1960s and late last year.
Court orders prevent the Sunday Herald Sun naming those who had rejected applications overturned.
A VCAT spokesman said the tribunal did not comment on individual cases.
The revelation sparked outrage from victims' groups.
Justice advocate Steve Medcraft said it was horrifying that pedophiles, perverts and other criminals were allowed to work with children.
"It is frightening that a tribunal designed to fix back-yard disputes is able to make decisions like this and put the safety of our children at risk," he said.

Sunday Herald Sun (14-2-2010)
Sue Hewitt/ Peter Rolfe

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