Child sexual abuse: the importance of objectivityequusadm_in
After the 2 nd World War there was a steady flow of orphaned or unwanted children from Britain who were sent to Australia for a better life and to populate Australia.
These children and their poor parents were sold the promise of a new, exciting and wonderful life in Australia. The reality when they arrived was very often very different to the promise. Many of these children were put into religious institutions of all denominations and although some had a positive experience many others did not.
The reality was that many of the transported children were used as unpaid labour and dragooned into construction projects with little regard for their well-being or education. All too often, also, they were at the mercy of unaccountable strangers who abused them both mentally and sexually. Such treatment was endured by many for decades and destroyed many young lives.
The British Government has finally admitted that it was in error in sending such vulnerable children to Australia with very little oversight and have agreed compensation should be
In Australia the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse after nearly 5 years has made 409 recommendations for State and Federal Government. Unfortunately, these recommendations have come too late for many victims of such abuse who have died or are now in their 60s and 70s having endured and been affected for their whole lives. Compensation packages are being considered and hopefully will be paid before
more victims succumb to age and infirmity.
Child sexual abuse is of course still occurring, and victims are routinely appearing in court and many victims are young but there are still people making complaints about events that date back 20 or more years. There is no statute of limitation currently in place to block these aging offences, but in any such trial Juries are given warnings and asked to scrutinise the evidence with care.
Recently, for example, in Western Australia infamous paedophile Vincenzo Mule has finally been sentenced for his spree of sexual offending. Mule sexually penetrated his female partner’s 8-year- old son and after she had obtained a Violence Restraining Order, he burnt her car and set fire to her home partially destroying it. His most infamous offence was the kidnap of 2 young children from a day care centre and sexually abusing them before
abandoning them in a park. As a result of this offending he was sentenced to a total of 16 ½ years imprisonment.
Plainly sexual offending has not gone away and unfortunately never will. We can hope that education and greater awareness of the issues can reduce the prevalence of this offending
within the community.
In more recent years, the internet has facilitated people who have deviant sexual desires to feed their desires and has been shown to result in more abuse of more children.
On the other hand, of course, complaints of Sexual offences can be very easy to make and the courts and defence and prosecution counsel have extensive experience in this area. Jurors who hear these trials regularly convict people of such of fences, equally, also regularly acquit them too. Accordingly, we must have trust in the jury system and the fair trial process. We must guard constantly against prejudice and sympathy and bitter historical experience clouding and wrongly swaying our objective and analytical and fair assessment of each complaint on its own merits. Past suffering teaches us to beware but fairness and transparency cannot be sacrificed in the rush to judgment at any cost.
The historical sexual abuse allegations made against Cardinal George Pell, one of the most senior clergy in the Catholic Church, are currently being heard at committal stage in Melbourne. One senses there is a long road ahead before we learn the truth or otherwise of the allegations made against him. But we must keep an open mind and judge him, as all others, as an individual accountable for his own actions and not simply as the scapegoat for an institution already terribly tarnished by others.