When a victim complained to police about Larkins, despite the case coming with a recommended follow-up time of 28 days, there were extensive delays. The victim was not interviewed for six months. It then took police three months to send the case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). After a further few months, the interviewing police officer was incorrectly advised, by another officer, that the DPP did not want to go ahead with a prosecution. Eventually, the victim declined to proceed with the case because of all of the delays and associated hassles.
The commission was told that an examination of the police logging system used for the investigation also revealed missing entries, entries not made for weeks after actions taken, and entirely incorrect information entered as fact.
The hearing was before all six commissioners, including Bob Atkinson, the former Police Commissioner for QueenslandState (see previous posting). Mr. Atkinson did not appear to ask questions of the police officers.
Sergeant Nigel Turney Evidence: Mr. Turney was the officer who heard allegations against Larkins from a victim and witness. He was quizzed on why police action was so poor in this case. Firstly, Sgt. Turney said that he had no training in interviewing victims of sex abuse. He also said he had been told by Senior Constable Pamela Amloh, a domestic violence officer, that the DPP did not want to proceed, even though it had done the exact opposite.
Turney defended his apparent lack of action also on the basis of the minor nature of the offence. He told the enquiry that “whilst it does involve a child and it was an assault, it probably, in terms of the scale of it, was at the lower end of those types of offences.”
With regards to the delays in the investigation, Sgt. Turney said that “I could say it’s probably a little lengthy but you have to take into account any number of investigations that we may have had going at that time.” Turney repeatedly stated that things were a lot better now, echoing the most common phrase occurring into all enquiries into child sexual abuse.
Late in proceedings, Turney said that there was a lack of physical evidence, which fact contributed to the decision not to push the case. While Larkins had admitted to Turney that he had been in his bedroom with the victim, Larkins denied abuse. Turney also admitted that, in an interview with Larkins’ superior, Allan Currie (see yesterday’s posting), the matter of Larkins’ suspension from the Scouts was not raised.
Perhaps the main conclusion which can be drawn from Sgt. Turney’s evidence is that he was seriously out of his depth. The matter should have been given to a more senior, experienced officer. Why this was not so, remains an open question for the enquiry.
Senior Constable Pamela Amloh Evidence: Amloh said, in relation to the log entry by Turney that she had advised him the DPP did not want to go ahead with a prosecution, that she “had no memory whatsoever” of it, and that “I don’t recall” it.
Snr. Const. Amloh, in her role as a domestic violence liaison officer, she had interviewed Larkins in regard to an Apprehended Violence Order, which was later withdrawn. Larkins had told her that he was a regional, rather than group, leader in the Scouts. She took this to mean that he was “not in as much contact with children”.
Snr. Const. Amloh was not only out of her depth, she was out of her field. Whoever put Turney and Amloh on the Larkins case was clearly out of his or her mind.
Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services Staff Evidence: Various officials of Larkins’ organisation gave evidence. The general theme was that people were either reluctant to believe the worst of Larkins, or were intimidated by him. In some cases, they were related to him.
Terry Chenery, a former head of the organisation, said that he was responsible for about 60 indigenous children in foster care. He revealed that Larkins had parental responsibility for many of them. “He could do whatever he liked to those children. He would take them fishing; he would take them to the movies, camping. Whatever you like, he could do.”
A former case worker for the organisation, Ian Eggins, said that Larkins had six children in his court-appointed care at the time of his (Larkins’) arrest. He said that he had observed, over several years, Larkins “grooming” one boy who was living with Larkins. Eggins told the enquiry that, with regards to this boy, (known as AD at the enquiry) “ Numerous times during my employment I picked A.D. up from Steve’s house or would drop him off there so Steve could … they were doing things together. They would go tenpin bowling together.”
Mr Eggins said that he thought this and other inappropriate behaviour ”a bit strange”. However, he was told by his direct manager, Ted Lancaster, not to worry. ”Ted said to me ‘you probably wouldn’t have to report it as it is second-hand information,’ ” Mr Eggins said. Another manager reportedly said ”oh, that’s a bit strange” but left it at that.
The chair of the organization’s management committee, Karen Elphick, said that Larkins wanted to be the foster carer for AD, but he had insisted that a management committee about it should be held away from the organization’s offices because “he did not want staff members to know.”
Elphick said she “tried to talk him out of the decision” to foster the boy, “because he was the CEO and shouldn’t be doing it”. She claimed that Larkins said that he had spoken to government officials about it and that “it was a done deal.” She did not pursue the matter further as she “just assumed he knew what he was talking about.”
A former caseworker for the organisation, Jacqueline Henderson, a cousin of Larkins, said the agency was poorly staffed and she was given little training. Most employees were not appropriately qualified. Henderson said that there were rumours about Larkins from his time with the Scouts, but that she thought it was “hogwash” and did “not believe it.”
When Ms. Henderson mentioned the rumours to Larkins, he threatened defamation action if anyone mentioned it again, so she didn’t. Ending her evidence, Ms. Henderson broke down in tears, saying “He used me as a goddamn puppet.”
Karen Barwick, the organization’s special projects manager, told the enquiry that another worker called her to his house in 2011 to show her the pornographic pictures he had discovered, on a USB computer stick owned by Larkins. This led to Larkins’ conviction for possessing child pornography.
Ms. Barwick said that “I looked at the screen … (and I saw) files of pornographic pictures. I asked ‘whose is it?’ and was told they believed it was Steve Larkins’.” Ms Barwick added that she told him she did not care to whom it belonged and that “we needed to go directly to police.” She then drove both of them to the police station with the USB device.
Pointedly, Karen Barwick said that, upon joining the organisation in 2009, she had been appalled to discover that Larkins’ relatives were on the management committee.
The organisation is now in voluntary receivership.
Read more here:
TOMORROW: The New South Wales government officials
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)