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Schools 'Failing To Act' Over Sex Predators

Some NSW schools and government agencies were failing to take immediate steps to protect children from alleged sex offenders, a damning report has found.
The NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, found while some schools acted to protect children by thoroughly investigating child sex abuse allegations, others did not.
Releasing his annual report today, Mr Barbour said it was still necessary for his office to intervene in cases.
"My report documents how a Catholic diocese failed to suspend a priest from duties including working with primary school children, even though police were investigating sexual assault allegations against him," he told reporters.
"Our intervention saw the priest immediately suspended."
Mr Barbour also cited a case of an independent school which failed to stand down a teacher charged with more than 30 child sex offences.
"Our review found that the school did not properly address the risks that this teacher presented to students," he said.
"At our urging, the school finally suspended that teacher."
The school was not named.
Allegations of sexual misconduct accounted for 10 per cent of all child protection matters referred to the ombudsman in the past year.
The Department of Community Services (DOCS) was also criticised for its handling of at-risk children, and the NSW police force was attacked for corruption.
"The state's child protection agencies remain far from perfect," Mr Barbour said.
The systems set up to protect children and support families were not as effective as they should be, he said.
"This year we received over 900 complaints about DOCS from staff, parents, carers, through our official community visitors and others. Most related to child protection services," Mr Barbour said.
"One investigation examined why DOCS placed children with foster carers on two occasions, despite being aware of allegations that the carers had abused other children placed with them."
In the past year, almost 7,000 complaints were made about NSW police, an increase of 15 per cent on the previous year.
Mr Barbour said complaints continued to identify criminal conduct by police, with 52 officers being charged this year with 95 offences.
His report also revealed cases of serious misconduct including a senior constable soliciting a bribe from a young man he caught speeding.
Mr Barbour said he was not surprised that the number of complaints had risen and problems in areas such as child protection, policing and juvenile justice were hard to fix.


AAP
http://www.smh.com.au (26-10-2004)

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