Judge calls for reform after Family Court ruling
- Category: Children placed at risk by caseworkers
- Created: Wednesday, 16 December 2015 10:17
- Written by Samantha Woodhill - Australasian Lawyer
A family court judge has lashed out at flaws in the system after he was forced to allow a seven-year-old girl to live with her father, despite the fact that she told a court psychiatrist that he had sexually abused her.
According to a report by the Australian, the Family Court judge who presided over the custody battle had no choice but to give the father custody of the child as the Tasmanian Department of Human Services had failed to intervene in the care of the girl and her nine-year-old brother.
But federal family law judges have no power to force state child welfare departments to intervene in particular cases.
Judge Robert Benjamin slammed the “arcane division” between the state’s child welfare and the federal family court system for leaving children exposed to “abuse and neglect” in his judgment, calling for law reform by state and commonwealth policymakers.
The girl alleged that her father hurt her by touching her “in the wrong places”, an assessment by a court-appointed child psychiatrist found there was a “concerning constellation of risk factors for sexual abuse present”.
The risks included the daughter’s disclosure of abuse to her mother and a non-family member, the children’s sexualised behaviour, the father’s interest in teenage partners and his high use of pornography.