Crime Inquiry Chair Condemns Shredding Cover Up

By Susann Kovacs (March 25, 2004)

Article at The Justices Project

The Chair of the House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Bronwyn Bishop has accused Queensland government officials and public servants of being involved in a cover up and the former Criminal Justice Commission of a “whitewash”.

Mrs Bishop said the new evidence taken by the Committee’s Inquiry into Crime in the Community at a Brisbane hearing last Tuesday (March 16, 2004) showed “the cover-up” of the rape of a girl in care in the John Oxley Youth Centre had begun “right from the moment of the incident.”

“It was admitted that an incident had taken place, that there had been a rape of the girl take place, but the authorities did nothing about it for 3 days,” she said (see: What they did to a girl in care).

One of the witnesses who gave evidence before this month’s Brisbane’s hearings of the Committee was a former employee at the John Oxley Youth Detention centre.

According to Mrs Bishop, the witness “simply said that everybody knew it had happened but nobody was allowed to talk about it.”

“Quite clearly, the cover up began right then,” she said.

One of the documents submitted to the Committee was a press statement issued by the former Criminal Justice Commission which had found “no official misconduct” in the way in which the rape of the girl had been handled.

“I have no understanding of how they could possibly have issued such a statement, unless they hadn’t read all the documents,” she said.

Mrs Bishop said that the documents now provided to her Committee were obviously available to the CJC at the time it investigated the matter.

“I mean, it just came out like a whitewash,” she said.

What the CJC would have found in those documents, she said, was “officers in charge of this place saying that ‘we interviewed the girl but she didn’t want to lay charges’,” Mrs Bishop said.

“For heaven’s sake, it was not her responsibility.”

“And then to have the audacity of Mr Beattie [the Queensland Premier] to stand up there and say he’s not going to spend any more of tax payers’ money investigating the thing … he just wants this hushed up.

“Well it’s not going to be hushed up,” she said.

Commenting on Mr Beattie’s recent hard line on child protection, Mrs Bishop said, “I’m afraid you have to say about Mr Beattie ‘don’t listen to what he says, take a look at what he does’,”.

“If they’d learned their lesson then, perhaps hundreds if not thousands of children may have got better treatment,” she said.

“And that’s why Mr Beattie must be answerable.”

Mrs Bishop described the level of care the girl received from staff at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre as “an absolute disgrace.”

“Quite clearly, once there had been a rape it was not a question for the young girl to make any decision about it,” Mrs Bishop said.

“It was a question for the authorities to take proper action to have those boys [involved in the rape] prosecuted,” she said.

Mrs Bishop said the fact that staff at the John Oxley Centre chose not to report the incident to authorities when several of the boys involved absconded after the incident, was a further indicator of an early cover up.

“I mean, they called the police to find the boys, and then they sent the police away, and they didn’t report it for three days,” she said.

“It’s mind bending,” she said.

Mrs Bishop commented on evidence of the “loneliness” of the terrain the young girl was taken to.

“To be the sole female taken with this group of boys and then left unsupervised was, again, absolutely irresponsible.

“Older boys too,” she said.

Evidence taken in the Committee’s earlier hearing indicated the girl had previously been subjected to sexual abuse at an even younger age.

“So the trauma for her would have been even worse,” she said.

“But it’s the sheer cynicism of the cover-up, I suppose, that really upsets you, when you hear the evidence starting to spill out and you realise the subterfuge that went on about pretending that they could shred this evidence, if there was no other legal proceeding on foot that would have required that documentation as evidence.”

Mrs Bishop was referring to a legal defence claimed by the CJC under no less than three separate chairmen, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, a currently serving magistrate and the current State Coroner.

A legal defence that has since been discredited.

Earlier this month a Baptist minister was tried and convicted for destroying evidence potentially required for a legal proceeding (see: Judge buries shredding excuses).

On three occasions the judge in the District Court case rejected the views put forward by Counsel that a legal proceeding had to be on foot before a charge of destroying evidence could succeed.

Those responsible for shredding material about the John Oxley Youth Centre, including, information about the rape, however, have never been committed to stand trial.

Mrs Bishop said the Baptist minister was given “quite different treatment”.

”There’s quite clearly one rule for those people who are in power, and exercise power, and a different law for ordinary citizens,” she said.

“Those persons who destroyed documents, just like the pastor destroyed documents, need to be brought to account.

“What the court decides subsequently, is a different question.

“But they should be treated in exactly the same way as the pastor was treated.

“In other words they need to be dealt with in precisely the same manner, with a police investigation, a DPP acting and, presumably, the DPP bringing charges.”

Mrs Bishop was unable to say what her Committee’s next move would be.

“Well, that’s a matter for the Committee to decide upon and it will be going through those … looking at the options of where we go next and then, when we make that decision, people will become aware.”

She was, however, able to confirm one thing.

“It’s certainly not the end of the road,” she said.