Police probed on child-sex abuse claims
By Gary HughesApril 5, 2004
Victoria's Ombudsman is investigating the alleged mishandling of police inquiries into child sexual abuse, including claims of corrupt police behaviour.
One of seven specific allegations under investigation relates to a 1992-1993 police inquiry.
Itis claimed that police inadequately investigated pedophile activity in which police were allegedly implicated, and that a video implicating police, in the possession of a detective, was lost.
But the Ombudsman's internal investigation, which has been running for two years, has itself been plagued by problems.
These include delays and the need to remove one police Ethical Standards Department investigator after he failed to pass on crucial information from two witnesses who alleged possible police involvement in an organised pedophile and child pornography ring.
The claims against police were referred to the Ombudsman by Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon in early 2002. A formal investigation started in Junethat year.
Victorian police are conducting a parallel criminal investigation into connected allegations of organised pedophilia and child pornography and links to the entertainment industry.
The Ombudsman is looking at three previous police investigations of alleged child sexual abuse, one at a Mornington childcare centre in 1992, a second involving students at a school in acentral Victorian town in 1999, and a third into Gregory John Stevens,a former scriptwriter for the TV series Neighbours, who pleaded guilty in the County Court in 1997 to sexual acts with a 14-year-old boy.
Police did not lay charges in the Mornington or country school cases.
One involved allegations that two men in the country town were sexually abusing schoolchildren. In the Mornington case, a Department of Human Services inquiry concluded that the child care centre owners, who denied any wrongdoing, had allowed and possibly participated in the sexual abuse of children in their care.
The Ombudsman'sinvestigation also includes alleged mishandling by police and the Education Department of claims of physical and sexual abuse of students by a teacher at two schools, including one in the same country town where schoolchildren were reportedly abused by two locals.
Documents relating to the Ombudsman's investigations seen by The Age show:
- The Ombudsman removed an ESD officer from the investigation for"incompetence" in May 2003 after the officer failed to pass on information from two witnesses.
One witness claimed that a houseused by pedophiles in Mornington possibly belonged to a policeman. The other claimed that a video tape existed showing people dressed as police abusing children.
The investigator said he could not recall having such a conversation about a tape with the witness, but acheck of telephone records by the Ombudsman's office showed he did have such a discussion.
- The name of a prominent Melbourne businessman not connected with the allegations was inexplicably added by an investigator to notes on the case file in theOmbudsman's office in November 2002.
- Confidential information on alleged police misconduct supplied to Crime Stoppers in2000 on the basis it would be given only to ESD was passed instead to the police against whom the allegations had been made.
- AnESD detective appointed to an initial investigation of the allegations in early 2002 had to be removed soon after when it was revealed that hewas friendly with other police at the centre of the internal inquiry.
The ESD investigation was then referred by the Chief Commissioner to the Ombudsman.
Concerns about the way previous police sex abuse investigations had been conducted were first raised with Mrs Nixon at a meeting in December2001 with psychologist Dr Reina Michaelson, of the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program, which runs awareness programs in Victorian schools.
The meeting was arranged after Dr Michaelson reported to police that a file she had compiled on child sexual abuse cases, including allegations of police misconduct or corruption, was the only thing stolen during abreak-in at her home a few weeks earlier.
The founder of the Queensland-based child abuse advocacy group Bravehearts, Ms Hetty Johnston, has become involved. She travelled to Victoria last month to meet people who claim they were the victims of organised pedophile networks and child pornography rings involving corrupt police.
"Ibelieve they were genuine in their allegations," she said. "But they are terrified. The only process that the victims will have any faith in at this stage appears to be a royal commission.
Senior Assistant Ombudsman Robert Seamer, who is overseeing the investigation, said he hoped it would be finished "fairly soon".
Victoria Police did not respond to questions put by The Age.
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