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Child sexual abuse royal commission: Jonathan Lord 'groomed childcare worker'
Jonathan Lord, in his application to work in a children's camp in the US, said his best friend was a seven-year-old.
It didn't raise a red flag at Camp America, the organisation that recruits workers for US summer camps.
They placed Lord at a YMCA camp in Jamesville, Virginia, in 2009. He was dismissed for questionable behaviour with an eight-year-old boy.
However, since child protection training at Camp America four weeks ago, Lord's application would have caused concern, the Royal
Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard.
Erin Turner, who joined Camp America four months ago, worked at the YMCA with Lord, who is serving a minimum of six
years in jail for multiple offences against children.
Now an outbound manager, Ms Turner is continuing her evidence to the commission sitting in Sydney.
She said as part of recent training at Camp America they went through applications, including Lord's,
and matters that would not have previously raised a red flag now would.
On Friday she told the commission that Lord's application to the YMCA - where he said he wanted
to work with children in an atmosphere where there were "no walls and boundaries" - would have been flagged for further investigation.
In reply to John Agius for the NSW government, Ms Turner said prior to training she would not have put Lord in the category of child molester.
While at the YMCA, she worked closely with Lord for one term. She recalled him having children on his lap and said
as his superior she would "shake my head at him".
She was aware it was against YMCA child correction policy. "Looking back I now know I should have reported it."
Ms Turner said she had a two-hour meeting with YMCA personnel who went through policies with her before she started as a casual worker with them.
In reply to Mr Agius, she said she did not fully understand at the time the rationale behind the "no children
on lap" policy because children often wanted to climb onto a carer's lap.
She said in retrospect, she saw that Lord had groomed her as well.
"I often think about what I would say to him if I saw him. I considered going to see him in jail
and asking him why he did this to the children and why he did this to me.
"I never considered that I could be groomed."
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YMCA defends staff support after allegations against paedophile Jonathan Lord emerged
The largest provider of outside school hours care in New South Wales has defended the support that was given to former colleagues of convicted paedophile Jonathan Lord after allegations emerged against him.
In January, Lord was jailed for a minimum of six years for abusing 12 young boys during his time as a child care worker at the YMCA at Caringbah in Sydney's south.
The case is the focus of the second public inquiry as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
A child care worker at the centre, Michelle Bates, has told the Royal Commission she could not pinpoint one thing YMCA management did right when the allegations surfaced.
Ms Bates says her request for group counselling was refused.
Counsel representing the YMCA New South Wales Gregory Sirtes SC has challenged Ms Bates about her comments that staff were treated like "guinea pigs" during the investigation.
"The fact that the CEO came to see you and other childcare workers, and confessed to you that the way in which the organisation had handled its relationship with its staff was wrong, yet despite that, you are unwilling to acknowledge that was even one
step in the right direction," Mr Sirtes said.
Ms Bates agreed it was a step in the right direction, but there was, "pretty much no support after that."
The hearing was told YMCA NSW paid for Ms Bates' counselling bills.
Ms Bates also conceded she ignored policies listed on a child care induction checklist until the Lord incident.
She is one of a number of YMCA child care staff appearing at the inquiry.
Alicia Dellaca has told the hearing that the YMCA centre at Caringbah was the first point of contact for distressed families, and parents were, "very emotional and sometimes abusive."
Ms Dellaca says despite the investigation, the organisation did not provide staff with enough support.
The hearing was told staff were forced to sign confidentiality agreements and urged to notify families that Jonathan Lord was on annual leave.
Danielle Ockwell worked closely with Lord and, in a tearful admission, told the inquiry she feels "devastated" and blames herself "every day" for what happened.
Ms Ockwell confessed to seeing warning signs of Jonathan Lord's abuse, but she did not view it at the time as "grooming" behaviour.
She also admitted being told by Lord that he was sent home from a summer camp in the United States in 2009, because he was caught alone with a young boy. She chose not to act, saying it seemed innocent.
Alicia Dellaca felt the same way about Lord's treatment of the children in his care, saying the fact children were sitting on his lap in a "such a public forum" made her think the behaviour was appropriate.
During a candid testimony, Ms Dellaca admitted that the required child-to-adult ratios were routinely disobeyed until the Lord incident and that children were allowed alone with a single adult worker on a "daily" basis.
She said she learnt the policies of the YMCA centre to tell them to an accreditor, but conceded that at the time, she did not understand the concept of a code of conduct "in an employment context".
A YMCA co-ordinator Carine Beer conceded that until Jonathan Lord was being investigated, she had not read the YMCA Parent Handbook.
"What do you recall from the Child Protection Policy?" asked Senior Counsel Assisting the Commission, Gail Furness.
"Nothing," Ms Beer responded.
"What do you recall from the Childsafe Policy?" Ms Furness asked.
"Nothing," Ms Beer responded.
The inquiry has also been told that Jonathan Lord was so enthusiastic about his job that his co-workers were not aware he was "grooming" young boys.
Senior Counsel-Assisting has asked Chloe Starr about her knowledge of YMCA policies.
"I'm trained to read them and I know the gist of the important ones," she said.
"So if a child is bullying, I would be referred to read the bullying policy and go from there."
Ms Starr said she considered Jonathan Lord a "role model" before the allegations and had no idea his behaviour was cause for concern.
"I just thought he was a great worker and he was very enthusiastic about his job," she said.
"He had a great passion for his job.
"But now, when I look back, and I have learnt about 'grooming', I see that may have been 'grooming'."
Chloe Starr was also questioned about the policy that no YMCA child care worker can babysit a child that attends the centre.
Ms Starr says she was aware Jonathan Lord was looking after children on weekends.
"That didn't occur to you at the time - a 24-year-old young man who was spending his weekends babysitting young boys?" Ms Furness asked.
"At the time, no," Ms Starr responded.
"He was so enthusiastic about children, I just assumed that that's what he enjoyed doing."
Lessons being learned
The YMCA admits it was a steep learning curve. NSW CEO, Phillip Hare, says the organisation had never dealt with a similar case before.
He says the YMCA did not want any actions to "jeopardise" the criminal investigation, potentially leading to a situation where Lord would be allowed to walk free.
Phillip Hare says the YMCA was "definitely learning" during the incident, and allowed the organisation to "reflect" on how to better support parents and staff if the incident happens again.
The YMCA says it is "devastated" about Jonathan Lord's "devious and perverse conduct", and it welcomes the public inquiry.
The organisation says Lord lied on is resume and did not provide contact details, making his background "not readily available to check".
In a statement, YMCA New South Wales admits it could have had "more robust processes for identifying potential sexual predators" and staff have now undertaken further training.
"However, YMCA NSW considers reports to the effect that grooming conduct and identification of paedophiles is simple or easy dangerously underestimates the difficulties that organisations face in dealing with this conduct," the statement reads.
Areas for improvement
The YMCA centre at Caringbah was inspected numerous times in the wake of the Jonathan Lord allegations.
The General Manager of the Early Childhood Education and Care Directorate with the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities, Ruth Callaghan, told the hearing a 'monitoring inspection' took place in January 2012.
It was described as an 'unannounced visit' in the wake of the Lord matter, but was also a routine inspection to ensure compliance of child protection issues and policies.
Concerns including the use of private cars were raised, and the assessment and compliance officer identified areas for improvement.
"Based on what I know of the monitoring visit, I would not say that the evidence I have would indicate best practice," Ms Callaghan said.
After Lord was jailed, a further monitoring inspection was conducted on 30th May 2013. The hearing was told that a range of non-compliance issues were detected.
One staff member had not completed a Working With Children check.
"The first non-compliance was in relation to emergency and evacuation instructions not being displayed, and various other matters in relation to emergency and evacuation procedures," Counsel Assisting the Commission, Gail Furness said.
"That's right," Ms Callaghan said.
"And the next matter concerns staff records not including other things, among them, evidence of training?", Ms Furness asked.
"Yes," Ms Callaghan said.
The inquiry continues.
Child molester jailed for 10 years
One of 12 boys molested by former YMCA childcare worker
Jonathan Lord was so ashamed
when questioned by his parents that he detailed his horror in a sealed letter to police.
Lord, 26, wept when he was sentenced to a maximum of 10 years' jail on Friday in
Sydney's Downing Centre District Court.
With time already served, he will serve a non-parole period of six years.
The court took four hours on Friday to detail all the offences and hear how Lord
had groomed his victims.
Judge Michael King noted the serious nature of the 29 offences of child sexual and
indecent assault and said Lord's victims, in offences committed between 2009 and 2011,
were as young as six.
"The offender is also in breach of the trust placed in him either as a result of the
position of trust because of his employment or because he had been commissioned by the
parents of the individual victims to babysit them," Judge King said.
Lord worked at a creche at a YMCA in southern Sydney, participated in the organisation's
before-and-after-school program and worked privately as a babysitter.
Some of his babysitting jobs were for YMCA parents, a practice that was against YMCA
policy, the court was told.
Lord convinced boys to sit on his lap during YMCA bus trips and activities and would
then put his hands down their pants.
Following Lord's initial arrest in October 2011, YMCA parents were notified and
encouraged to speak to their children.
An eight-year-old victim repeatedly denied that Lord molested him.
Police told the boy's parents that Lord later confessed to sexually molesting
the boy, who then detailed it in a letter addressed only to police and left it
on his family's kitchen table.
Eight of Lord's victims were molested in YMCA transport vehicles and during YMCA
excursions, including movie nights and rock climbing activities.
The other boys were molested while Lord babysat them.
During one incident, Lord had rubbed a victim's penis and then sent a text to
update the boy's mother, saying everything was fine.
Lord met another boy's family via his own mother and babysat the victim every
Saturday for nearly a year.
When asked, the boy did divulge he was molested.
"He then said he was embarrassed and didn't want to talk about it, putting a rug
over his head," Judge King told the court.
During the incidents, the victims asked Lord to stop touching him but he continued
to do so.
The court also heard one boy buried his head into a pillow and cried when his
parents asked if Lord had abused him.
Another boy had gasped uncontrollably when questioned by his parents.
When Lord met another victim at the YMCA the boy said he only had his brother to
"Do you want to be my friend," the court heard Lord asked the boy.
During one excursion Lord gave him a special coin.
"Because he was my best pal," the boy said.
Judge King said the incidents would have affected the boys to such a degree
that their ability to form normal social relationships would be affected for
the rest of their lives.
With time already served, Lord will be eligible for parole in October 2017.
Childcare molester urges boys to move on
Twelve young boys molested by a Sydney childcare worker have been transformed into scared, anxious and angry children who now fear
being left alone, a court has been told.
They also resist the most important men in their lives and hold the highest fear that their friends may find out what happened.
Former YMCA childcare worker and private babysitter Jonathan Luke Lord, 25, wept when the parents of some of his 12 victims read impact
statements in Downing Centre District Court on Friday.
"I wish I was older when it happened," one father said when quoting his son.
"I would kick him and run and scream and tell my parents straight away.
"I hope he feels alone inside like he made me feel."
The mother of another victim quoted someone who interviewed her son about the attacks.
"You have the most beautiful boy," she said.
"He's worried because he didn't want you to cry."
Another mother said her son wakes six times a night and comes into his parents bedroom.
The youngest victim, aged six, refused to admit being molested even after Lord told police he attacked him, his mother said.
The boy now resists his father and other male family members.
Lord has previously pleaded guilty to 29 child sex and indecent assault offences on 12 boys aged from six to 11 that took place between 2009 and 2011.
He worked at a YMCA in southern Sydney, participated in before-and-after school care programs and worked privately as a babysitter.
Lord wept during Friday's sentencing proceedings before Judge Michael King and at times nodded off.
Six sheriffs and Corrections officers created a barrier between Lord in the dock and the parents of the victims who sat in the gallery.
He wrote a letter intended for families, urging them to get on with their lives.
"I don't think I've stopped praying, not for myself ... but for the boys," his barrister Craig Smith read in court.
"Just move forward and hopefully their slate can be wiped clean."
Mr Smith said Lord was likely to rehabilitate from his behaviour.
"If there was ever going to be a sex offender that could turn it around ... it is likely to be this young man," he said.
Crown prosecutor Kara Shead said Lord earned the trust of his victims and their parents and then molested the boys.
"He breached that trust in the most gross way imaginable on repeated occasions," she told the court.
She acknowledged Lord was entitled to a 25 per cent discount on his sentence for pleading guilty.
His father, Roger Lord, gave evidence to the court, saying his son refers to the attacks as a "dark secret".
Judge King adjourned the matter to January 18 next year for sentencing.
Childcare worker admits molesting 12 boys
An eight-year-old was the main target of a Sydney childcare worker who molested 12 young boys after gaining the confidence of their parents.
Jonathan Luke Lord, 25, pleaded guilty to 29 child sex and indecent assault charges in Sydney's Central Local Court on Thursday.
One of his victims, the eight-year-old boy, was sexually assaulted twice and was also the victim of seven acts of indecent assault and incitement to commit acts of indecency.
Two other charges of sexual intercourse involving the boy were withdrawn on Thursday by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The boy's mother choked back tears after learning of Lord's guilty pleas.
"I'm just happy it's over," the woman, who can't be identified for legal reasons, told AAP.
She said her son was "doing okay" and her family was coping well.
Lord pleaded guilty to the offences on 12 boys aged from six to 11 that took place between 2007 and October 2011.
He worked at a YMCA in southern Sydney, participated in a before-and-after school care program and worked privately as a babysitter.
He allegedly put his hands inside one boy's pants and asked, "Does that feel nice?", documents previously tendered to the court state.
Lord appeared via audio-visual link and wept when pleading guilty to the charges, saying "Yes, your honour".
A woman who had children under his care, but were not among those molested, also burst into tears.
Police said Lord was in a "highly trusted position" and abused his roles as professional childcare worker and babysitter.
"The accused has on all occasions groomed the complainants and their families to earn their trust," previously tendered court documents state.
"Investigators will submit that this behaviour is predatory and premeditated in nature."
A YMCA spokesmen and Lord's mother, Jill Yankos, declined to comment on Thursday's court proceedings.
Ms Yankos is married to soccer legend Charlie Yankos, who captained the Socceroos in the 1980s.
Lord will remain in custody until he appears in Downing Centre District Court on August 31 for sentencing.
A spokesman said the YMCA was devastated by the nature of the charges relating to a former employee.
"Our focus remains, as always, on the families and children who have been affected," he said in a statement to AAP.
"We would like to reassure our families and the community that from the moment we became aware of the allegations we took immediate action by following mandatory reporting procedures, immediately standing him down and working with NSW Police to ensure the proceedings were not affected."
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