In the past couple of years, US activists have forced Boy Scouts of America to release files it kept on suspected paedophiles in the organisation. It took lengthy and expensive court battles to reach that point. Clearly, Boy Scouts of America had been doing there exactly what Scouting Australia has been doing here – protecting the guilty and allowing them to re-offend. These records were known within the US organisation as the “Perversion Files”.
The Scouts in Australia kept similar files from the 1960s to the 1990s according to the former CEO of Scouting Australia NSW branch, Peter Olah, and former district and regional commissioner, Des Hocking. Here, the files were known as “Behavioural” and unofficial “Red” files.
Despite these revelations, Scouts NSW still claims it does not have such files. Fortunately, the extreme powers granted to a royal commission means that, if the files exist, they will be seized without the need for court cases. The chief commissioner has already highlighted his intention to fully use this particular power. Failure to hand over documents, or any attempts to destroy them, will attract particularly harsh penalties.
The point of these comparisons is that sometimes an offender will move not just to another state, but another country. This is particularly the case for the Catholic Church which might move a Filipino priest to Australia and an Australian priest to the Philippines as the above cartoon suggests. Many organisations from the US and the UK have branches in Australia, so files obtained here may give warnings for the parent organisations.
There is one case concerning the Scouts movement which makes this point crystal clear. Recently, one Mr Zirus was arrested at the San Antonio Airport in Texas as he was about to return to his home in Perth, Australia. He has since been sentenced to 40 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 20 years, for assaults on boys at Camp Stewart in Texas. On completion of his sentence, he will be deported to his native Australia.
Before he went to the US, according to charges by Western Australian authorities, Zirus abused at least four boys in Perth. He will be charged when he eventually returns to Australia. The question remains – did local officials know of his behaviour, and, if so, did they alert their US counterparts? Perhaps the royal commission will find an answer to this question.
Countries which have states have long realised that they need to use federal powers to tackle cross-border crimes. Currently, NSW, Queensland and Victoria have enquiries into some aspects of child sexual abuse, but it is precisely this problem which has resulted in the overarching federal royal commission.
Now it is necessary in a globalised world to consider transnational hurdles. What someone does one week in Brooklyn he could be doing in Melbourne the next week. Australia is a small country with a population about the same as Texas (albeit in several times the area) and should accept advice and submissions from people in other countries.
To this end, the head of the Irish enquiry into child sexual abuse, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, has already been giving the benefit of his experience to the Australian government. Hopefully, many more such people will also help us during the three years the royal commission is due to run. In return, we can give them copies of documentation and evidence obtained under the extensive powers of the royal commission which could prove useful to concerned people in many other countries.
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TOMORROW:Why is nothing much happening yet?
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)