The Brisbane Times
State pays $120,000 'hush money' to alleged rape victim
TONY MOORE July 9, 2010 - 5:53AM
Two decades after an inquiry into abuse at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre was shut down, the state government has paid $120,000 to a former detainee allegedly pack raped in 1988 at the age of 14.
The woman, now 36, yesterday described the payment made three weeks ago as "yucky dirty money" and said she still wanted the case tried in a criminal court.
However, police have said there was insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case. Picture:Assistant Police Commissioner of Queensland Ross Barnett
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The alleged assault was one of the key issues that sparked the 1989 Heiner Inquiry into a failure to investigate sexual assaults at the detention centre.
The inquiry was shut down by the Goss government in 1990, with documents controversially shredded.
The woman, who now lives in northern New South Wales, confirmed the $120,000 payment yesterday.
However, she said she was still not satisfied.
"I want the truth to still come out," she told brisbanetimes.com.au.
"To myself, that was yucky, dirty money to keep me quiet. That's what I mean by yucky, dirty money. To keep me hush, hush."
The woman alleged she was raped by two youths while another three looked on during a supervised bush outing at Mt Barney with five John Oxley staff members on May 24, 1988.
Yesterday, the woman said she still wanted the allegations tested in court.
"I would like to go to trial if I had the opportunity," she said.
A new police investigation was instigated after the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, signed a fresh statement in October 2006.
However, Assistant Commissioner Ross Barnett wrote a letter to the woman's lawyer in May 2008, saying there was "insufficient evidence" for further police investigation into "the rape allegation or any lesser charge".
In his letter, Mr Barnett wrote: "The absence of any medical evidence to forensically support the complaint, and a lack of corroboration from John Oxley Youth Centre staff members present on, or about, the incident at Mt Barney in 1988".
Documents obtained by brisbanetimes.com.au show the then 14-year-old was examined at the Mater Public Hospital on May 27, 1988, three days after the alleged assault.
Internal swabs were taken.
In other documents, the woman tells police she was ordered to take a shower when the group returned from Mt Barney.
Her lawyer, Gordon Harris from the family law firm Doyle, Keyworth and Harris, said the personal injuries payment was made after a conference between the woman's lawyers and Crown Law solicitors in late April.
"Put it like this. It was an admission by the government to say that she had been raped in their care," Mr Harris said.
Attorney-General Cameron Dick refused to answer questions about the payment.
Mr Dick's office instead issued a statement, attributable to a spokesperson, which read: "[Name withheld] commenced a claim against the Department of Communities [Queensland Government] filed in the Supreme Court in 2002.
"This matter has been resolved through mediation between the parties, the terms of which are confidential to the parties concerned.
"It is not appropriate, therefore, for the Government to comment on the matter."
In 1990, ex-magistrate Noel Heiner began an inquiry into the alleged sexual assaults, however collected documents were later shredded because of a lack of legal protection given to witnesses.
This sparked long-running accusations of political cover-up over the affair, dubbed "Shreddergate" by University of Queensland journalism lecturer Bruce Grundy.
Shadow Attorney-General Lawrence Springborg said the alleged criminal act in 1988 must be finally investigated.
"It appears from this we have a victim, that someone has been sexually assaulted," Mr Springborg said.
"If a payment has been made, then obviously someone has been sexually assaulted and someone needs to be held accountable for it and we need to go back.
"The reasons these documents were destroyed in the first place - one of the first actions of the [Goss] Labor Government - was to protect their union mates."
Mr Heiner, 73, died last month.
The woman is now studying and said she was "very happy" because she had just passed her first semester.