Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry News and Updates

Shredding of documents in 'Heiner Affair' under fire in Carmody Inquiry into Child Protection

by:Michael Madigan

From:The Courier-Mail 

April 23, 2013 11:38AM
A QUARTER of a century-old decision by a Queensland Labor Cabinet to destroy documents alleged to have been linked to child abuse is under fire in the Carmody Inquiry into Child Protection.
Former Queensland Attorney General Dean Wells has taken the stand at the inquiry which resumed Tuesday morning, defending the decision by the newly appointed Goss Government in 1990 to shred documents related to the "Heiner Affair.''

The Heiner Affair is a long running theory that the government illegally destroyed documents which contained evidence of child abuse, primarily at the old John Oxley Youth Detention Centre.
Former Magistrate Noel Heiner headed an inquiry established in 1989 by the old National Party Government to examine industrial strife at the John Oxley.

Mr Wells said his memory of a 23-year-old event was not entirely clear.
"I have been raking my brains since you summonsed me to try and remember this stuff,'' he said.
Mr Wells agreed the newly formed Labor Cabinet agreed in March 1990 to destroy the documents following advice from the Crown Solicitor.
Mr Heiner had expressed a fear that the inquiry would not protect him from potentially defamatory comments contained in the documents and the new government offered him indemnity, Mr Wells said.
The Crown Solicitor had advised on 23 January 1990 there was no legal impediment to destroying the documents, provided no legal action related to them had commenced.

Inquiry boss Tim Carmody questioned why the government would offer to indemnify a man, then destroy the documents which might be produced in a court in a case against that same man.
"That suggests no one thought about those two colliding facts,'' Inquiry head Tim Carmody said.

Mr Wells said the government believed it wrong to keep documents which he believed contained untested allegations of misconduct which did not involve criminal behavior.

But Mr Carmody said the Cabinet knew it was dong something quite "risky" which required serious thought.
"It was such a serious decision it was deferred twice,'' he said.
Yet the Cabinet did not appear to apply careful consideration before green-lighting the shredding, Mr Carmody said.
"It (the consideration given) seems to have been less than might have been expected,'' Mr Carmody said.
"The questions that seems to have been obvious don't seem to have been asked.''

Mr Carmody suggested the documents contained not so much allegations of child sexual abuse but accusations related to industrial strife inside the John Oxley centre. But he also suggested there were two competing sides in the equation - one side wanted to keep the material and one side wanted it destroyed.

He suggested the Labor Cabinet had taken one side, and allowed the destruction of the documents.
The inquiry continues.

Source: The Courier-Mail

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