Monday, April 12, 2010

Professor Challenges courts behavior on child abuse

Professor Freda Briggs, challenged the courts on their reactions to child abuse with recent decisions resulting in sending children to abusers.

Professor labels courts ignorant and naïve

Posted Apr 12 2010, 07:43 PM by Lawyers Weekly

Child protection expert, Professor Freda Briggs, has slammed Australian courts for their ignorance and naivety in child sexual abuse cases, calling for statutory training of all family court judges and magistrates.

As a member of the National Council for Children Post-Separation (NCCPS) expert advisory panel, Briggs said Australian courts are now becoming renowned worldwide as turning a blind eye to paedophiles and child sexual abuse within the family.

She adds that, according to police experts, Australia's reputation for handing out soft sentences has resulted in paedophiles purposely travelling to Australia from other countries where they would face a 25 year sentence for a similar offence.

Expressing concern about Australia's approach to the issue of child protection, Briggs said there is an alarming lack of understanding and knowledge among family court judges and magistrates regarding child sexual abuse and its ramifications.

Briggs is concerned about the number of children who are being ordered by family court judges into residency or contact with parents who are acknowledged to be child sex offenders, placing the children atrisk of abuse.

According to Briggs, judges and magistrates need to be made aware, on a continuous basis, of the most recent research findings regarding child sexual offenders, their modus operandi and the effects of abuse on children.

Providing examples of how this lack of knowledge amongst the family courts of Australia has led to a number of offenders being given less than appropriate orders, Briggs quoted Californian Judge Peggy Fulton Hora, who recently expressed amazement that Australia does not impose mandatory training for newly appointed judges.

"The need for mandatory education has never been more obvious than in recent weeks. First, a family court judge in Tasmania thought it was appropriate to make little children responsible for their own protection from a convicted child sex offender who was acknowledged to be a risk.

"Seemingly the judge thought that daylight protects children from sexual abuse...Clearly this man needs to be educated about the grooming methods used by child sex offenders," Briggs said in a statement.

Giving other examples highlighting the need for training and education, Briggs emphasised that judges need to "learn about domestic violence and its effects on children's brain development" and that "only around 1.8 per cent of reported child sex offenders are convicted in this country".

Endorsing and supporting Briggs' concerns and calls for training, the NCCPS has asked for the AttorneyGeneral to address this issue immediately.

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