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  • Writer's pictureHelen Haydock

News Report: "Police paedophile groomed, abused 50 boys over 30 years." What can child safe organisations learn from this?

Reading this article today I felt I needed to write down my thoughts as it really highlights a number of the things I talk about in Child Safe Practices workshops. In summary the article outlines a report instigated by Tasmania police to undertake an Independent Review into former police officer Paul Reynolds.

1)He was police

This is such a tricky one for me. I have no intention of demonising any profession, there are good and bad in all. When we hear stories of police using their position to commit this types of crimes it does highlight some specific issues, in particular: Police are exempt from Working With Children Checks. I have written before about the over reliance on WWCCs but it is still an important screening tool. The problem is that organisations have no clear way of checking whether a police officer is still working/under investigation etc. When I have raised this with organisations it has often seemed like the idea a police officer could do the wrong thing has never occurred to them. Its a blind spot. Where child safety is concerned we can not have blind spots.

"While Reynolds built up trust and connection amongst the community through his role, sport was his hunting ground."


Anyone who has attended a Growing Futures workshop will know that this is a topic I believe everyone working with children should have a good understanding of. Grooming is a behaviour all perpetrators engage in, they groom their environment, their victims, adults caring for their victims and the community. They do this so they can get away with their offending.

"One victim, who was a teenager at the time, described Reynolds as "just the greatest groomer and ideal human". "He was so charismatic everyone wanted to be around him," he said."

3)Applying policies, procedures and codes of conduct consistently

It is not enough for organisations to simply have good policies and codes of conduct, these need to be applied consistently to everyone, regardless of their perceived position in the community. Reynolds worked for a decade after accusations were first made against him. Child safety must be a priority in any complaint handling process. The period of time that someone is under investigation can be challenging for organisations who have to balance employment legislation, procedural fairness and other processes but the safety and wellbeing of children must be the priority. Further to this information sharing is also an essential tool in keeping children safe. Perpetrators will often hold multiple positions or move across many jobs, accessing children. This is why many jurisdictions now have Reportable Conduct Schemes.

"The review identified shortcomings among sporting organisations after a report was made to the highest levels of the football association board about suspected inappropriate conduct. A search of records showed this was not passed on to police or any other agency."

4) Prevailing myths regarding who offends against children

This is another topic I have written about previously. Too many people in our community still believe the myth of the stereotypical offender as a "creepy looking bloke" despite significant evidence to the contrary. Statistically sexual offenders are most likely to be male but that does not mean that they are all male. They can also be young or old. (Australian studies find anywhere from 30-60% of all childhood sexual abuse is carried out by other children and young people). Further to this, recent research from Salter and colleagues found that men who reported that they had sexual feelings towards children AND had engaged in sexual offending towards children were 2.73 times more likely to work with children, 1.63 times more likely to be married and had significantly more social support systems than those who had no sexual feelings towards children and had not engaged in offending.

"'The picture painted of Reynolds as a community member by participants was of a person who was 'larger than life' and as a police officer who was 'always offering to help', Ms Weiss said."

Reading reports like this is hard, we must do better and learn from these cases. Across Australia we do have a roadmap for steps organisations can take to keep children safe. The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (and related State/Territory based legislation) but these will only work if all staff and volunteers understand what they need to do to keep children safe. If your organisation needs support around implementing Child Safe Practices please contact us to discuss how we can help.

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