26 Jan 2014

Official bungling 'aided' paedophile

9:23 am on 26 January 2014

Bungling by police and New South Wales child protection agencies on top of inaction by Scouts Australia led to a paedophile running a foster home for Aboriginal children, the lawyer for an inquiry into child sex abuse has found.

Gail Furness, senior counsel for The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published damning findings after a public hearing into how paedophile Steve Larkins ended up as chief executive of the Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services (HACS).

The HACS case-study was the first one by the commission last year, AAP reports. The submission by the senior counsel will be considered by the full commission, which will publish its findings later in the year, probably in June.

Larkins was jailed in 2011 for child pornography offences, and is due for release in April this year. There had been complaints about him in the 1990s but he remained a Scout leader.

He evaded a state-run vetting process designed to expose him, "escaped early prosecution, obtained employment in a non-government agency charged with providing a safe place for children - which itself was under close state scrutiny - and was allowed to be the carer of a young person," Ms Furness said.

In her findings Ms Furness said incidents involving Larkins went unreported until 1997.

Then, following a complaint Larkins had molested a boy, a police investigation was mishandled by an inexperienced officer. This led to delays and the eventual decision by the victim's family not to proceed even though the DPP recommended prosecution.

At this time Scouts Australia NSW issued Larkins an "official warning". Ms Furness said the warning from then regional commissioner Allan Currie, was "completely ineffective" - it was not put on Larkins' file.

"It is likely that Mr Currie's actions in respect of Mr Larkins in 1997 were influenced primarily by his desire to protect the reputation of Scouts Australia NSW," she said.

Larkins went on to work in child welfare and was an adviser to the state and federal governments.

When in the job with HACS in 2003 the then NSW Department of Community Services (DoCs) assessed him as a risk when he applied for a working with children check (WWCC) but sent the assessment to him not to the HACS management committee.

Larkins forged documents to get the WWCC reviewed and the Commission for Children and Young people withdrew the assessment without doing adequate checks.

She also found that HACS did not follow its own procedures and check out Larkins' suitability to be a foster carer.