National Council for Children Post-Separation
Media Statement

Monday, April 12, 2010

Call for Statutory Training for all Judges and Magistrates in Australian Family Courts


Today Professor Freda Briggs expressed serious concerns regarding the number of children who are being ordered by Family Court Judges into residency or contact with parents acknowledged to be child sex offenders, placing the children at risk of abuse. She calls for statutory training for all Judges and Magistrates appointed to the Australian Family Courts and subsequently that they continue to be made aware of the most recent research findings regarding child sexual offenders, their modus operandi and the effects of abuse on children. The National Council for Children Post-Separation (NCCPS) unreservedly endorses and supports Professor Briggs' concerns and calls for these matters to be given immediate attention by the Attorney General.

Professor Briggs states, "South Australia’s Thinker in Residence, Californian Judge Peggy Fulton Hora, was recently quoted as expressing amazement that Australia plucks lawyers from their legal practices, puts different wigs on their heads and makes them judges without any mandatory training. We expect them to be knowledgeable and well informed on matters of child sexual abuse, but sadly this is rarely the case.

"The need for mandatory education has never been more obvious than in recent weeks. First, a Family Court judge in Tasmania thought it was appropriate to make little children responsible for their own protection from a convicted child sex offender who was acknowledged to be a risk. Seemingly the judge thought that daylight protects children from sexual abuse and they would be safe if they stayed together and had a lock placed on their bedroom door. Clearly this man needs to be educated about the grooming methods used by child sex offenders."

The next day a judge decided it was appropriate to send a child to stay in a house where she had already been sexually abused (while condemning the mother for being naturally over-anxious). On day three, a judge ordered a child to return to New Zealand indicating that he didn’t want to insult New Zealand by protecting children from a violent Maori father who was allegedly sexually abusing their mother from the age of thirteen and was convicted of violence against her in the children's presence. Clearly this is a judge who needs to learn about domestic violence and its effects on children's brain development.

Then, we had a criminal court judge facing the largest and most abhorrent collection of child pornography ever - including child rape and sex with animals. According to media, he gave the offender a good behaviour bond proclaiming that he isn't a paedophile because he hasn't been convicted of previous offences; clearly a judge who hasn't done his homework and read the research showing that up to 75% of down-loaders have abused up to 30 children before or after watching child porn and that only around 1.8% of reported child sex offenders are convicted in this country. Maybe he didn't consider the fact that every image downloaded involves the abuse of a child with inevitable damage to the life of that human being and if it wasn't for the likes of the down-loader this multi-billion dollar criminal business would disappear.”

The UN has made it clear that child sexual abuse is increasing worldwide and the internet is largely responsible. Furthermore, police experts have stated that the reputation of Australian Courts for handing out soft sentences has resulted in paedophiles purposely travelling to Australia from other countries such as the USA where they would face a 25 year sentence for a similar offence. A good behaviour bond is surely useless if it does not include mandatory treatment to change the offender's perception of children as sex-objects. The ignorance and naivety demonstrated so clearly and obviously by Australian Judges and Magistrates in recent cases is wholly unacceptable when so much is known about child sexual abuse and its severe effects on the emotional, physical, and sexual development of children which have lifelong consequences. Australian Courts are now becoming renowned worldwide as turning a blind eye to paedophiles and child sexual abuse within the family.

It is the NCCPS view that children must be protected by the Family Courts from potentially abusive situations and exploitation as a basic human right.

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