Calls for commission into Forde Inquiry
By Erin O'Donnell
A PROMINENT Sydney QC has called for the appointment of a Royal Commissioner to examine the conduct and findings of the recent Forde Inquiry into the abuse of children in Queensland institutions.
Bob Greenwood QC said a document gathered by The Queensland Independent, that detailed allegations of child abuse seemed to have been ignored or swept under the carpet by the 1999 Forde Inquiry (Forde pictured).
"There should be an inquiry into the [Forde] inquiry . . . obviously some independent person should be appointed as a Royal Commissioner on a short-term basis to be given all the Forde inquiry materials and with terms of reference sufficient to investigate further if need be and also to review the finding of the inquiry in light of what now seems to be the case," Mr Greenwood said.
The document was written by acting manager of the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre Anne Dutney and detailed incidents at the centre of staff incompetence and negligence which placed the lives of children at risk.
Mr Greenwood was a legal representative at the Forde Inquiry that also investigated an incident at the centre in which a 15-year-old girl was handcuffed to a tennis court fence overnight.
TQI has been told that the youth worker that was held back on a double shift to watch over the girl while she was handcuffed had been recommended for disciplinary action for having an improper relationship with the same girl.
Mr Greenwood said if this were the case, the assignment of that youth worker to watch over the girl while she was handcuffed to a fence was "scandalously inappropriate" and "outrageous".
It has also been alleged that information about this relationship was passed to the Forde Inquiry.
All of the persons involved in the incident appeared before the inquiry but no record of the improper relationship was canvassed by it.
Head of the inquiry former governor Ms Leneen Forde declined to comment on the handcuffing incident or the inquiry.
"I had a job to do. I did it. I don't talk about it now," Ms Forde said.
Another Forde Inquiry commissioner, Dr Jane Thomason, also declined to comment.
Dr Thomason said it was "inappropriate" for her to comment without speaking to Ms Forde.
The Forde Report also rejected a claim by the then-manager of JOYC that he had ordered the handcuffing of the girl, from his home telephone, because he was concerned the girl and another resident might incite a riot.
Mr Greenwood was a former Commonwealth Deputy Public Prosecutor and headed the special federal investigation into Nazi war criminals in Australia and was a former member of the National Crime Authority.
"The questions around the Dutney document; the questions surrounding how this person was allowed to supervise the very girl in respect of whom complaints had been made not getting an airing, are certainly two extremely disturbing facts here," Mr Greenwood said.
The girl that was handcuffed was, at the time, on remand and had only recently returned to JOYC after spending a considerable period in the Wolston Park Psychiatric Hospital to treat severe depression.
While in the hospital the girl exchanged letters with the youth worker alleged to be having a relationship with her and that one of the letters was intercepted by JOYC management and contained comments critical of the centre and its manager.
QUT human rights and welfare lecturer Mr Ross Daniels said a relationship between a male youth worker and a 15-year-old female detainee in his care would be not only unprofessional, but perhaps unlawful.
Mr Daniels said the male staff member in question would have "violated all the expected professional codes of conduct between a person with statutory duties towards a child in care" and could have broken the law.
"It would have been a breach of well established professional codes of conduct and it possibly . . . could be unlawful in the sense that people who have responsibility for those in care have a very strict duty of care to provide an appropriate range of services.
"So it's not only a profound breach of professional conduct, it is potentially an unlawful act in the sense that it may . . . breach the duty of care owed by a professional towards a client," Mr Daniels said.
Mr Daniels also questioned the lawfulness of management placing the girl in the care of a staff member they knew was involved in an improper relationship with her.
"[The supervisors] failed to exercise the duties that they [are required] to have towards someone, which is to provide a safe, secure environment for them and that then may open up questions of whether further investigation should be held into just the nature of what happened that night and who was in charge and what directions were issued and whether it was lawful and professional," Mr Daniels said.
The manager of the centre at the time was later paid an amount of $27,190 dollars for entitlements to which he was not entitled and required to sign an agreement binding him never to speak about matters that had occurred at the centre.
In relation to his stewardship of the centre, and the handcuffing incident in particular, his departmental head advised him that "he had done nothing wrong".