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Police, Fire and Emergency Management - James Griffin


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 26 November 2020

Tags: Child Abuse, Police, Justice

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, on the same matter. You've just confirmed you were made aware of the allegations verbally in late August. You haven't said what day that was. It would be good if you know what day that was. So, you don't know the day?

Mr SHELTON - I was verbally alerted on 23 August.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thanks, 23 August. The ministers through Estimates this week have confirmed that Ms Courtney, the Minister for Health, first became aware on 31 July 2019 via a Working with Vulnerable People check being revoked for Mr Griffin, not through being informed, however.

Ms Archer, Mr Jaensch and Mr Rockliff, respectively the ministers for the Justice, Child Safety and Education portfolios, only became aware through media reports.

Minister, why didn't you inform your colleagues? Now that we understand the scale of what's happened, we look at your actions with that knowledge and we ask why your colleagues responsible for Child Safety, Education and Health were not informed.

Mr SHELTON - From an operational point of view, it was an ongoing investigation, therefore I don’t get involved in or talk about ongoing investigations.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I find that hard to understand. A complaint was first made on the 1 May 2019 to Tasmania Police about James Griffin, and an investigation subsequently followed. James Griffin was charged on the 3 September 2019. He subsequently took his life, but he continued to work at the LGH for months while the police investigation occurred. He then subsequently took his life. Is it standard practice that an employee of the Tasmanian Health Service who works in a hospital paediatric ward would continue to work while a police investigation is being undertaken?

Mr SHELTON - I don’t know the standard practices; we are talking about police - I am not the Minister for Health.

Dr WOODRUFF - What is the threshold action that has to be?

Mr SHELTON - You need to ask that question of the Minister for Health.

Dr WOODRUFF - Hold on. This is a serious matter and we are being battered around by different ministers. What threshold has to be crossed for a person to be removed? What crimes have to be committed for a person to be removed from working in a place where they have access to children on a daily basis when they are accused of child sex offences?

Mr SHELTON - I can't answer that.

Dr WOODRUFF - Maybe you ask the Commissioner of Police to provide -

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, please.

Dr WOODRUFF - This is a really important matter.

CHAIR - It is an important matter. Dr Woodruff, if you don’t stop talking over the top of me, you will be asked to leave. I am giving the call to Ms Ogilvy for one question.

 

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, the coronial record of investigation into the death of James Griffin makes a number of points relevant to the conversation. On 19 July 2019 child pornography was found in Mr Griffin's possession, and he was then formally charged on 3 September 2019. You said you were informed on 23 August, and that you couldn't talk to your colleagues because it was a matter under investigation.

Why didn't you inform them when Mr Griffin was formally charged on a range of heinous offences?

Mr SHELTON - As the commissioner said, and what is obvious now, there will be a commission of inquiry. I note these matters will be a subject of that investigation, and I do not intend to add at this time to any of the conversations around that.

Dr WOODRUFF - With respect, minister, we are not looking for a gotcha moment here. We are looking to understand systems that have failed children in Tasmania repeatedly across multiple agencies. We are looking to understand, in hindsight, whether, now you understand the incredible seriousness of what is alleged and the number of agencies involved, the fact that he was employed at Ashley, and had exposure to children across schools, school camps, netball associations - so many places - would you do anything different now?

 

Do you think we need to do something different to inform colleagues responsible for agencies, where a person has been charged of child sex abuse, other than via the media?

Mr SHELTON - There have been discussions in the community about the Government and whether we should go to a commission of inquiry or not. The Premier has announced that we are going to a commission of inquiry.

I ask you, now that has been set up, that we allow that process to take its course, and for the process we have here, I am not going to contribute.

Dr WOODRUFF - It could be six months, more, a year, before some action is taken.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, you have had two calls.

Dr Woodruff interjecting.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, I am moving the call.

Dr Woodruff interjecting.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, do not do that again, please. Speaking over the top of me when I am trying to move the call on.

 

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, you said earlier you were informed of the James Griffin matter on 23 August 2019. Who informed you and did they tell you that Mr Griffin was to be, or was likely to be charged for a range of serious sex abuses?

Mr SHELTON - These matters will be the subject of investigations by the commission of inquiry. I don't intend to add more to the discussion.

Dr WOODRUFF - I don't understand why you are not answering the question, because this will not perjure anything that comes out in the inquiry. These are straight questions to you as the minister responsible for police.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, you know I can't require the minister to answer the question in a certain way. He's entitled to answer it as he sees fit.

Dr WOODRUFF - All right, thanks. I'll ask another question.

Minister, our understanding is that on 3 September 2019, Mr Griffin was charged with a number of criminal offences involving the repeated sexual abuse of a child. He was then arrested on 3 October 2019 and charged with additional sex crimes. We understand this was first reported in the media in The Examiner on 8 October. First charge 3 September, subsequently charged 3 October, first reported in the media on 8 October, at which point other ministers became aware of Mr Griffin and the charges.

Minister, you were told on 23 August. Why do you continue to think it's acceptable to have a practice where despite two series of charges of child sexual abuse being made against somebody, ministers had to find out through the media? Why wouldn't another minister of the Crown inform them of the charges so they could look at the records of that man and investigate who he had been around, his working conditions and seek to take appropriate steps with the information available? Why are charges of serious sexual abuse not enough to trigger you to tell another minister to pay due diligence to the care of children they are responsible for?

Mr SHELTON - Thank you for the question, Ms Woodruff. As I have already stated, I know these matters will be a subject of the investigation by the commission of inquiry and I don't intend to add any more to the discussion than I already have.

Dr WOODRUFF - The record will show that's a shameful abrogation of your responsibility as the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management. We need to see a change in the system now; we cannot wait until the end -

CHAIR - Do you have a question, Dr Woodruff, rather than a comment?

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm asking the minister today to make a commitment to investigate how we need to change the systems in place that manifestly have not protected children in this state. Will you take those actions, not waiting for the end of a commission of inquiry, which could be years away? Are you going to sit on your hands for years and do nothing?

Mr SHELTON - With respect, I have already indicated that the commission of inquiry will sort these questions out. There has been a push for a commission of inquiry; we are going down that path and that is what will happen.

Dr WOODRUFF - I have no confidence in your ability to protect children in Tasmania.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff. I will go back to Ms Butler first.