Mullighan report details decades of child sex abuse in state care

THE horrific extent of sex abuse against children in state care over four decades has been revealed in the 600-page report of the Mullighan inquiry to State Parliament.

Retired Supreme Court judge Ted Mullighan, QC, yesterday issued a stark warning that children in state care would remain vulnerable to sex abuse unless urgent action was taken to overhaul a system in crisis.

His $13.5 million inquiry considered hundreds of allegations of widespread child abuse within government and non-government institutions, spanning 40 years.

The report contained 54 recommendations, which Premier Mike Rann yesterday said would be comprehensively examined before a detailed response in early June.

Victims who provided evidence to Mr Mullighan during his three-year inquiry yesterday packed the public gallery of the House of Assembly as Mr Rann described how the contents of the report had "sickened him".

"Decade after decade, the perpetrators of this abuse not only robbed children of their innocence but also stole both their past and their future," Mr Rann said. "But the victims, fearful and forced into silence for so long, deserve our compassion and, most importantly, our resolve in dealing with issues past and present.

"I congratulate Ted Mullighan not only for lifting the veil on the depth of child abuse over decades but also in the way he has given victims a voice at last."

Mr Mullighan said he had been totally unprepared for the "foul undercurrent of society" which had perpetrated child sex abuse against wards of the state between the 1940s and 1980s.

He had personally interviewed 792 people who alleged they were victims, with many, including an 81-year-old woman, revealing their stories for the first time.

Further investigations had determined 242 alleged victims were wards of the state when they were sexually abused, with allegations involving 922 perpetrators.

Mr Mullighan said he had referred 170 people with information about 434 alleged pedophiles to police, who arrested two suspects and reported 13 others.

"I was appalled and horrified at the way in which children were exploited, abused and threatened and how they have lived in that situation for years without being able to do anything about it," he said

Mr Mullighan said he had decided to detail all the evidence he had received to highlight the extent of child sex abuse – and how it could be avoided in the future.

"We need to educate the public about this scourge of child sex abuse so the public know how bad it is and how extensive it is," he said.

"We need to be vigilant, not only with our own children but also with other children."

In his report, Mr Mullighan said he had received evidence the state's child protection system was in "crisis", with inadequate resources and funding.

"The number of children being placed in care has increased; there is a shortage of foster carers and social workers; there is an inability to place children according to suitability rather than availability; and children are being placed in serviced apartments, bed and breakfast accommodation and motels because there is no other accommodation," he said.

"Such a state of affairs cannot properly care for an already vulnerable group of children, let alone protect them from perpetrators of sexual abuse.

"The evidence to the inquiry demonstrates that more resources must be made available to deal with the crisis created by the past as well as implement necessary reforms for the present and future."

Mr Mullighan said some of the wide-ranging measures which must be implemented to protect children in state care against sexual predators included:

STOPPING children who require emergency accommodation from being put into motels, serviced apartments and bed and breakfasts.

PROVIDING compulsory training for social workers and carers on how to detect child sex abuse.

INTRODUCING mandatory checks on anyone who provided regular services to children in state care, such as bus and taxi drivers.

CONDUCTING special police operations at known homosexual beats to arrest pedophiles and gather criminal intelligence.

ESTABLISHING a special youth ministerial council which could advise the State Government on how to combat child sex abuse.

Mr Mullighan said extra resources also had to be injected into the criminal justice system to prosecute child sex offenders regardless – and fast-track their trials.

"Unfortunately, the process from investigation to trial now takes many years," he said.

"It is important these allegations are not seen as a lesser priority in the criminal justice system because they are `historical'. The Pedophile Task Force, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Legal Services Commission and the courts need to receive sufficient resources to investigate, prosecute, defend and conduct trials concerning the allegations of child sexual abuse arising from this inquiry in a timely manner."

Mr Rann yesterday announced an extra $2.24 million would be provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions over the next three years to enable individuals identified by Mr Mullighan to be prosecuted.

Welcoming the extra funding yesterday, lawyers acting for more than 100 alleged victims who gave evidence to Mr Mullighan also called for the State Government to establish a special compensation fund.

Source : https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/shocking-sex-abuse-revealed/news-story/f678ff4f97ca6f16374ce25b8b7f3fc5

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