Who’s looking after your children?
In April this year, the ABC uncovered that more than a dozen people convicted of child sex crimes, rape, obscene exposure and assault had applied for working with children checks in the last five years…and succeeded, through successful appeals to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
In several cases, sex offenders have appealed to the VCAT after their proposed checks were denied by officials — including a child abuser who was caught by police with a half-naked boy in the back of his car on a busy Melbourne road.
Other cases have included a man who raped a 13-year old-girl; a father assaulting his 15-year-old daughter; and a man who regularly exposed himself and publicly masturbated in front of women and children.
The investigation was led by the story of a man convicted of indecently assaulting an 11-year-old boy in 1964.
Following the conviction, he appealed to the VCAT for a ‘working with children’ check as he wanted to attend events at his grandchildren’s school.
The boy, under the alias George Fletcher, tried to take his own life following the traumatic events of his childhood.
I’ll leave it up to you to find a word more suitable than disgusting.
No more loopholes for child sex offenders
The check is a mandatory step in order to work directly with children in childcare, teaching and religious positions, whether it be paid or voluntary work.
If they win the November election, the Victorian Coalition is promising much stronger crackdowns on loopholes in obtaining permits, according to Opposition Leader Matthew Guy — including a simple no to those asking for an appeal.
‘Victorian families deserve to feel safe in the knowledge that working with children check holders do not pose any threat or risk of harm to their kids.
‘It’s a small but important step in making a state a safer place.’
It’s a no-brainer response to assure the safety of our children, obviously.
You may be wondering, how are these people jumping through loopholes if they’re convicted of a sexual crime?
Well, under current law, those on the sex offenders register and being monitored for serious offences are already excluded from appealing for a ‘working with children’ check.
But those who do not appear on the register have a little more leg room.
Appeals are assessed based on legal tests, such as the position they would undertake, whether they are an ‘unjustifiable’ risk to minors, and whether the check is in the public interest.
Under the current laws of the VCAT, the age and gravity of the offence is also taken into account.
A simple no to these offenders seems like the obvious move, right?
Well, not everyone thinks there are holes in the system…
Legal experts such as La Trobe Law School professor Gideon Boas argues that the system has adequate checks and balances to protect children from genuine risks.
‘If a person is a genuine risk then it’s more or less inconceivable they will be granted a check.’
And the Labor government is fighting their way in, just in time for the November election. They say they have already made progress in tightening these restrictions, with the additional promise of plans to remove all appeal rights for people convicted of a category A offence, including murder, rape and distribution of child pornography.
All I can say is, there is desperate need for change.
After all, who do you want supervising your children?
PS: Is Australia’s ‘Ticking Timebomb’ about to blow? Download this free report to find out what we’ve been missing…
Alice de Bruin