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the battle for justice: an update – the problem with documents

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A prosecution should not proceed if there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction being secured. This basic criterion is the cornerstone of the uniform prosecution policy adopted in Australia.

from ‘The decision to prosecute’, in ‘Statement of prosecution policy and guidelines’, Director of Public Prosecutions, South Australia, October 2014

So I fired off an email to DCSI a few days ago, probably unwisely. because I was irritated when I looked  more closely at their apparent agreement to give me a face-to-face interview as part of my appeal. Here’s what it says:

We confirm that you can provide additional information in the form of a face to face meeting with a Senior Assessment Officer…. I have also noted on your file your request to provide this information by way of a face to face interview so that they are aware of your preference to have a face to face meeting.

The problem with this form letter is that I didn’t ask for an interview in order to provide more information. I didn’t have any more information to offer, and I’d kept no documents of the case. I’d already provided my 2,500 word account of the case, together with links to my blog pieces of the time – a further 3,000 words or so, though probably not all relevant to the case. My reason for requesting  the interview was to provide a human presence to supplement their beloved documents, and to give them an opportunity to explain their decision to me. They had, of course, given no explanation of or justification for their decision whatsoever.

So my rather peeved email may have torpedoed my chances of an interview, which is unfortunate as I just may have some more information by the time they give me that interview. I’ve made an official request to the SA District Court for court documents relating to the case, and a freedom of information request to the SA Police for police documents relating to my arrest and the charge. So I should soon be swimming in documents. I’m just hoping they arrive in time for the interview, if I get one, and of course that they reveal something useful for me.

I’ve also been advised to stop trying to do everything myself and get some legal advice, gratis if possible. Possibly a lawyer might be able to advise me regarding the possibility of connecting my accuser and finding out if he’s changed his mind, or if it’s possible to sue him for defamation, or if he’ll change his mind on pain of being sued. That’s obviously a long shot, and again it would take time (and money), which I don’t have enough of. False accusation is actually a criminal offence according to this NSW site, and I presume it’s the same in SA, but in my case the accuser was a minor, and a child under the guardianship of the minister (GOM) when he made the claim. So he was well-protected from prosecution. It’s just another indication that foster-carers are in a particularly vulnerable situation. No protection for them.

I’ve always had this useful mantra or rule of thumb in negotiating the slings and arrows. That is: if something goes wrong in your life, first, blame yourself. So in what ways am I to blame for my predicament?

First, I was naive in thinking this would never happen to me. I imagined I’d be able to win the respect of every boy in my care. I’d give them space, and I’d always explain plainly any disciplinary action I had to take. I’d teach them if they wanted to be taught, I’d correct them good-humouredly if they had dangerously wrong-headed ideas. I could get them to trust me and not see me as any kind of enemy. And I think I succeeded in that, even with the boy who told the big lie. However, I underestimated the difficulties i might have with some of the kids, and I underestimated the degree to which their agendas differed from mine.

I also underestimated the danger I’d put myself in, and the lack of protection for people like me, in one-on-one situations with a fifteen-year-old whose aspirations had virtually nothing in common with mine.

But these aren’t serious faults. Above all, I underestimated the ineptitude of the police and justice processes that I’d given myself up to once the arrest had been made, and the lie revealed (to me).

So here’s a question. How is it that a 15-year-old boy, of below average intelligence, IMHO, who simply wanted to avoid being put into care again, could, with a single, fairly obvious and transparent lie, completely defeat and make a mockery of the professional processes of the SA Police, the DPP and the DCSI, and destroy an innocent person’s career and reputation? HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?

It’s a rhetorical question, but an angry one. I know how it is. It’s due to inertia, complacency and ineptitude. And a lack of understanding, or even concern, as documents are shifted from office to office and desk to desk, that this is about people. 

When I first started to create a folder called ‘the big lie’, to collect any of the documents that happened to come my way, I was pretty sure I knew how this lie could be exposed and the matter resolved, but I was also sure it would never happen. All it would take would be a conference – the boy, his mother, selected family friends, and myself and selected supporters, including the social worker monitoring the placement. I was confident that, faced with this boy, I would expose the lie with a minimum of pain and embarrassment on his part, so he would continue living with his mother (if she would have him), and everyone would be alerted to the potentially destructive nature of his behaviour.

So that’s another point on which I can blame myself. I should’ve pushed this idea, though I don’t think his mother would’ve agreed. I think she would’ve been vehemently against it, convinced her little darling was telling the truth.

Anglicare, though, would’ve been for it, methinks. They knew the boy, and above all they knew me, which is why they didn’t take long to clear me once the criminal case was dismissed, and put more foster kids successfully under my care. That’s the point. Why would Anglicare, the welfare arm of the Anglican church, be the only institution to clear my name and allow me to keep working, when everyone knows that there’s an understandable moral panic about religious institutions and child sexual abuse? Why would they, under such pressure, keep on an ‘alleged rapist’?

I know the answer to that one too. Because they were the only organisation in this case that scrutinised people rather than documents. They knew my character, having worked with me for some time, and they knew the problems I’d been facing with the boy in my care. None of the others had the slightest idea, and showed no interest whatever in finding out.

 

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Written by stewart henderson

November 21, 2017 at 9:40 am

Posted in documents

Tagged with , , , ,