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Shelton Must Review Police Procedures on Child Abuse Investigations

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Tags: Commission of Inquiry, Police, Children and Young People, Working with Vulnerable People

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Police spokesperson

Police Minister, Mark Shelton, when questioned in Parliament today about the response to child abuse allegations at the Launceston General Hospital, refused to acknowledge police policies or procedures should be reviewed and changed. 

Minister Shelton’s refusal comes despite the fact James Geoffrey Griffin was able to continue working with vulnerable children at the LGH for three months after child sexual abuse allegations were made. It’s unacceptable for a Minister not to consider improving procedures to ensure such a serious situation couldn’t happen again.

When announcing the Commission of Inquiry on Monday, the Premier said, “One of our greatest responsibilities is to learn from the past and commit to not repeating those mistakes.” He’s right, and this should be his government’s focus.

His Police Minister, however, hid behind the Commission of Inquiry, pointing to distant recommendations and findings as his excuse for failing to answer questions or act now. 

In Budget Estimates, Assistant Police Commissioner Higgins confirmed that in July 2019 a police officer became aware Mr Griffin was employed at the LGH, and at that point “made steps to actually brief the hospital at the end of July” about the allegations.

The first allegation was made to police on 1 May 2019, but it took nearly three months for relevant departments to realise Mr Griffin worked with children in a highly vulnerable setting. 

It also took close to 18 months for the Northern Tasmanian Netball Association to hear about Mr Griffin’s actions.  Instead of being advised his Working With Vulnerable People registration had been revoked, the NTNA learnt about the matter through the media,.

Minister Shelton refuses to respond to flaws in police systems that enabled an abuser’s Working with Vulnerable People registration to remain in place for months. 

This is not just a historical question.  The Minister for Police needs to ensure children are as safe as possible by reviewing current police procedures, especially those surrounding Working With Vulnerable People registrations, and the workplaces and organisations where that is being used.

Minister Shelton has the power to fix problems ahead of the Commission of Inquiry. If he won’t take responsibility, the Premier must.