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Regret On Sex Abuse Remarks

THE chairman of the Parole Board has expressed regret for comments he made when granting parole to a child sex abuser after being criticised by the victim.
Hobart lawyer Chris Webster said he now thought the comments made in the "heat of the moment" at the end of the parole hearing were "inappropriate".
Granting disgraced psychologist Michael Crowley parole, Mr Webster had said: "There are unusual circumstances relating to this offence in that it occurred 20 years ago, it was a relationship with one person who at least appeared to be willing at the time, it was not an allegation that you forced yourself upon her other than the age disparity perhaps."
Crowley's victim obtained a transcript of the parole proceedings and said she was upset that the board appeared to have minimised what happened to her.
"They just conveyed a whole lack of seriousness about the crime," she said, comparing the comments to those made by former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth when discussing child sex abuse and which were roundly condemned.
The woman wrote to the Victims Assistance Unit and Attorney-General Judy Jackson outlining her concerns.
Mr Webster said although he could understand the woman's concerns, the comments in the transcript did not reflect what the board actually thought.
He said the board's opinions were more accurately reflected "in the written decision which was written after more consideration".
The woman was also concerned that the board could have breached the law by identifying her when it posted its decision on the Internet by naming Crowley.
Mr Webster said he had been told by the board's deputy secretary the woman had not been identified and Crowley had not been named.
The woman suggested that the board might need training about sexual abuse issues.
"The attitudes and the process of the Parole Board leave something to be desired," she said.
Mr Webster said he did not think the board had to make an apology and did not require sex abuse awareness training.
Crowley was paroled after serving one year of a 2-1/2 year sentence for pleading guilty to maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person about 30 years ago.
His victim had been 15 when he had been 31.
Crowley, who had headed an inquiry into sex abuse In the Anglican Church, was struck off the register of psychologists in September.

The Mercury (27-9-2004)
Gavin Lower

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