Sex Offenders Dodge Bans
NEW South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney today expressed
concern that 89 convicted sex offenders had been granted permission
to work with children.
Since 2003, NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People Gillian
Calvert has granted 59 offenders leave to work with minors.
A further 30 exemptions were granted through the Administrative
Decisions Tribunal or the Industrial Relations Commission.
Child protection groups have expressed alarm at the exemption
Mr Moroney today said he was worried by the exemptions, even
though they were lawful.
"I am concerned about that," he said.
"In one sense people have to move on with their lives whether
they are the victims of crime or offenders, but it does concern
me, as a police officer, that any or all of those individuals are
engaged in occupations or professions or come into contact with young people.
"I would believe that the legislation has been properly formed,
properly enacted and was properly applied, and obviously each of
these cases has to be looked at on an individual basis."
Today's Daily Telegraph reported that 89 people formerly prohibited
from child-related employment due to their crimes - often involving
minors - had won exemptions, issued without public notification, since June 2003.
Most of the 89 exemptions involved middle-aged men convicted of
carnal knowledge committed decades ago.
Others were more recent, with one 38-year-old man permitted to
work as a sports coach despite a conviction for assault with
indecency five years earlier.
Ms Calvert today said she would never have approved the cases
she signed off on if an individual was any danger to young people.
"I have not given an exemption to anybody who I think is a risk
to children," she told ABC Radio.
"Serious sex offenders don't get through our system.
"It's only in rare circumstances that people are granted
exemptions and that is where there is no risk to children."
Ms Calvert said each person who applied for an exemption
was thoroughly assessed.
"We look at their entire work history, we look at their
criminal history, we look at their personal circumstances
(and) we'll often get a full psychiatric assessment of
them as well," she said.
She said she had rejected several requests and opposed
applications through the courts.
But there were cases where exemptions were appropriate,
the commissioner said.
"If somebody has been convicted of carnal knowledge 30
years ago, but then went on to marry that person and have
children and grandchildren, you would not want them to
be captured by the scheme," Ms Calvert said.
"So you need a mechanism to exempt them."
She also said she approved of plans to adopt the child
abduction alert system, Amber Alert, to help find missing children.
"I think we all feel very anxious when we hear stories
about kids being abducted (and) it feels like there's
not much you can do about it," she said.
"I think that's what's so good about this Amber Alert.
"It gives us something practical that everybody in the
community can participate in to try and protect children."
Under the scheme, radio and television broadcasters, RTA
roadside message boards and taxi and public transport
dispatch systems will be required to relay, at 15-minute
intervals, details of missing children.
Last night, child protection and victim groups expressed
alarm at the work exemption process and that the community,
especially parents, were kept in ignorance of the risks posed.
Victims of Crime Assistance League spokesman Howard Brown
said the public deserved to know more about these secret approvals.
He said the community was operating under the "false assumption"
that the Working with Children Check was there to protect them
from people such as sexual offenders.
"Is there such a shortage of people without sexual offence
convictions that we must go out of our way to find people with
convictions to working with our children?" he said.
Mr Brown said a single conviction was not always indicative of a
one-off crime. Research showed that pedophiles typically assaulted
up to 30 children before being caught once, he said.
Just four of the exemptions to the ban on child-related jobs
involved any ongoing conditions.
The Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1998 makes it
an offence for a person convicted of a serious sex offence to
apply for, undertake or remain in child-related jobs.
But a prohibited person can apply for an exemption to the
Commission for Children and Young People, or less commonly,
the Administrative Decisions Tribunal or the NSW Industrial
Commission for Children and Young People Director Virginia
Neighbour said the exemptions issued were to applicants
deemed by the commissioner to be no risk to children.
"Generally, those who make exemption applications to the
commission have either very old or low-level sexual offences,
such as carnal knowledge where there is a small age difference
between offender and victim," she said.
She said the process for deciding whether to lift the child-related
employment ban was an administrative one.
Advocates for the Survivors of Child Abuse spokeswoman Dr Cathy
Kezelman said the secret exemptions "rang alarm bells". "What
checks are there to ensure the community is not placed at risk
here?" she said.