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Blue Cards Issued On Appeal

Seven failed applicants for blue cards in Queensland have been cleared to work with children through an appeals process put under review yesterday amid revelations a child-sex offender had been approved to return to his job in a Brisbane school.
Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser yesterday confirmed the seven had had rulings that they were unsuitable for blue cards overturned on appeal since the screening system was introduced in 2001.
But Ms Fraser cited privacy provisions in refusing to disclose how many of the seven had a history of child sex offences, as in the case of a 50-year-old janitor/bus driver who recently won a Supreme Court appeal to be awarded a blue card.
As revealed by The Courier-Mail yesterday the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had originally been refused a blue card in 2002 on the basis of his criminal history.
In 1989, the man, who had been working at the school for six years before making the application, was convicted in NSW for the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.
A year earlier, he had been sacked from a children's residential facility for inappropriate behaviour towards an adolescent girl.
The Children Services Tribunal overturned his blue card refusal on the grounds it was an "exceptional case" in light of his remorse, new-found sobriety and statements from counsellors that he was unlikely to reoffend.
The case prompted Premier Peter Beattie to begin a review of the blue card appeals process, which is initially heard "in camera" in the Children Services Tribunal. Mr Beattie said he was considering changes to the appeals process for applicants.
"I have asked Cabinet to expect a submission from the Attorney-General (Rod Welford) and I in the not-too-distant future," he said.
"We'll determine whether or not we need to leave these decisions just with the Children's Commissioner or whether we need to change the appeal rules or set criteria (for the appeal)."
Under the current legislation, a blue card will be refused if the applicant has been convicted of a serious offence, unless the children's commissioner is satisfied an exceptional case exists that the best interests of children are not harmed if they are given a card.
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg called for an immediate review of the blue card system.

Courier Mail (15-2-2005)
Michael McKenna/ Malcolm Cole

Suspended For 'Disgusting' Images

A Queensland schoolteacher has been suspended after being found among eight Blue Card holders allegedly possessing child porn images.
The Blue Card system checks people's background before they can work with children.
Police from the state's child protection squad Taskforce Argos said today they were sickened by the images some which involved a six-month-old baby in acts of bestiality describing them as "disgusting".
State Crime Operations Command Detective Superintendent Ross Barnett said 15 men from across the state were charged with 60 offences including possession of child abuse photos.
They included a 43-year-old Brisbane state high school teacher, a 52-year-old school electrician from Cairns, a 31-year-old student teacher and other Blue Card holders.
The teacher was immediately suspended after being charged earlier this week, an Education Queensland spokesman said.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie today defended his Government's Blue Card system, saying it weeded out people with criminal convictions.
"The Blue Card is not an absolute guarantee, it is a protection on what people have done in their past," Mr Beattie said.
"What they do in the future is a matter that will be caught by police operations."
Superintendent Barnett said Operation Charlie Havoc 2 targeted people who had contact with children through their work or volunteer activities.
"The persons targeted this week were identified as being a high risk to the safety of children in the community due to their status as teachers and holders of Blue Cards," he said.
"These Blue Card holders, had, or currently have, access to children through involvement in sporting and recreation clubs, church organisations and tutoring."
Superintendent Barnett said there was no immediate evidence children linked to the alleged offenders had been abused.
Police had seized computer equipment and further charges were likely to be laid, he said.
Acting Inspector at Taskforce Argos Jon Rouse said images seized included depictions of a six-month-old baby involved in an act of bestiality.
"The disturbing trend that we're identifying is that the images are ... produced in studios, it's becoming a professional production as opposed to what was previously done at a very amateur level," he said.
"The other disturbing trend is that the age of the victim seems to be becoming increasingly younger...it was as disgusting as anything that we've seen."
The Education Queensland spokesman said there was no suggestion images on the teacher's computer were of children from Queensland.
Elizabeth Fraser, the Queensland Commissioner for Children and Young People, said she would suspend the alleged offenders' Blue Cards.
Five of the 15 people arrested were charged with unrelated offences.

Daily Telegraph (11-2-2005)
Roberta Mancuso

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