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Court Clears Convicted Sex Offender For School Job

A SCHOOL groundsman was yesterday cleared to work near children despite having a conviction for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.
The Court of Appeal in Brisbane agreed the case was "so exceptional" he should be allowed to continue in his job at an indigenous community school.
The case was one of the first major tests of Queensland's new laws to regulate who can work With or near children.
Ths court was told the man had been employed at the school for about six years as a groundsman, janitor and bus driver. He was also a pastor with the One Church in Christ Fellowship.
In 2002 an application was made for the man to the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian seeking suitability for a child-related employment card.
The commissioner issued a negative notice, declaring the man unsuitable for child-related employment because of a conviction in NSW in 1989.
The man was convicted of assault with an act of indecency committed on a girl 13 when employed as youth worker at a residential care facility.
He was placed on three years' probation and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.
The court was told an application, was then made to the Children Services Tribunal, and in November last year it set aside the commissioner's order and substituted a new decision.
The tribunal found it was "an exceptional case in which it would not harm the best interest of children for the commissioner to issue a positive notice". The commissioner appealed the tribunal's decision but a District Court judge dismissed the appeal.
The Court of Appeal yesterday was told of the appea! by the commissioner against the District Court judge's decisions.
After a detailed look at sections of the new Act the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the commissioner's appeal.
The Court of Appeal's Justice Anthe Philippides noted the tribunal had taken into account a psychological report which indicated the man was a "low to very low risk of offending".
She said the tribunal also listed 14 protective factors in the man's favour, including the narrow time frame of the offending, devotion to the church and the support of the church, no evidence of reoffending and a protective and positive role as a parent to his own children.
Justice Philippides said there was nothing to suggest the District Court judge erred in upholding the tribunal's decision.
Justice Bruce McPherson said the tribunal considered all relevant matters and the judge was correct in upholding its decision.

The Courier Mail (24-12-2004)
Mark Oberhardt

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