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" Shadow Justice Minister Sue Walker says this allows a big pool of child sex molesters to roam in the community with no criminal conviction. "

Child Abuse Pall Clouds Vision

The police service obviously made a big mistake when it connected its suburban stations to the telephone.
Some woman just abuse the system by phoning and reporting rapes That makes the police sex assault statistics look bad - and worse still, officers then feel compelled to go out and investigate regardless of whether they think the complaints are genuine or not
However, there is a good side. Sometimes the police catch an offender and he gets sent to jail, making the rape statistics look much better.
But, you could get the same statistical effect by cutting off the station phones. Better still, by decriminalising rape.
That rubbish logic was in the air this week when one of our leading paediatncians put forward an argument in favour of the effective decriminalisation of most cases of child sex abuse.
This is effectively what the director of WA's Telethon institute for Child Health Research. Professor Fiona Stanley argued in this newspaper on Thursday.
It's interesting when you turn the argument around and substitute rape for child sex abuse.
"The answer lies not in a legal approach, but a public health approach." Professor Stanley argued. "And yes I'm talking again about prevention and early intervention - averting a crisis before it takes hold."
That is the same approach the Gallop Government adopted on cannabis use.
And just as that measure sparked the catchcry "soft on drugs", so will Professor Stanley have to bear the epithet "soft on paedophiles".
Professor Stanley is about as close as one gets to sainthood in this State - one of our two revered Mother Fionas. Criticism of her stance is therefore fraught with danger on such an emotionally charged issue in such a politically correct environment.
But what she wrote is too dangerous to remain unchallenged.
Professor Stanley said her approach was as a scientist, but she really mounted a political argument. It couldn't be otherwise, and not only because the science is shoddy.
This is because her article was squarely aimed at the Opposition parties' new election policy which says that in government they will institute mandatory reporting of child abuse "Do I agree that we have a child protection crisis? Absolutely,"' wrote Professor Stanley. "Do I agree that the system needs radical reform? Absolutely.
"However, as a scientist I look at the evidence and the evidence is overwhelming that a decrease in child abuse wont be achieved through mandatory reporting.
"Let me explain. Mandatory reporting has been a disaster in the United States and in the other Australian States where it has been introduced."
Well, let's examine that.
Professor Stanley falls back on her scientific credentials, but an examination of the published literature shows no significant research by her well-funded institute into child sexual abuse.
The names of those referred to SafeCare are not recorded by the Department. SafeCare's effectiveness has never been independantly evaluated. It is up to SafeCare to decide whether the Police are told about those on the program who continue to offend. In affect, SafeCare has been put above the law.
Shadow Justice Minister Sue Walker says this allows a big pool of child sex molesters to roam in the community with no criminal conviction.
Ms walker argues this very system makes the Gallop Government's promise of a sex offender register a cruel joke. And she notes the findings on paedophilia of the NSW Wood Royal Commission on treatment of child sex abusers, many of whom are in a state of denial: "The report emphasises that therapeutic intervention is not to be used as a means of avoiding or minimising any criminal action against the offender."

The West Australian (19-6-2004)
Paul Murray

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