an autodidact meets a dilettante…

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

Posts Tagged ‘false accusations

the secret world of DCSI’s Screening Unit unrevealed

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the black box that keeps the Screening Unit’s processes hidden from the public

Jacinta: Ok so let’s do a deep dive into the screening unit, the processes involved, the law that’s being followed, the staffing, the numbers of people being processed, time frames, consequences, pushback, serious possibilities of redress, anything else we can think of.

Canto: So here’s the situation as it stands. I received the letter from the DCSI screening unit on October 30 last year claiming that I ‘pose a risk to the safety of children’. I filed an application for a review of this decision on October 31, and the review is registered as having been commenced on that day. As a result of that DCSI decision, I was suspended from my teaching position, without pay, on November 10, the day my five-week contract was completed. I’ve been working from contract to contract, like most of the teaching staff where I work, or worked, though I was given ‘priority’ as a teacher about two years ago.

Jacinta: So you’ll get your job back if the DCSI’s decision is overturned.

Canto: I don’t know if there’s any guarantee of that. I was told, too, by a lawyer from the Legal Services Commission (I’ve called the LSC three times so far about all this) that I should have a right to some pay even as a casual, but I’m feeling cowardly about making any demands upon my employer, because I really really don’t want to lose my job.

Jacinta: So today is March 6, and it’s been well over 4 months since your appeal was lodged.

Canto: Yes and I’ve written two emails of complaint to the screening unit, and I’ve made an official complaint to the Ombudsman’s office. A rep from the Ombudsman has emailed me twice since, and now my review has been given ‘priority’. Last week a woman from the screening unit rang me, asking me to resend information that I’d already supplied. She explained that attached materials often got lost in the to and fro of emails within the screening unit – which didn’t inspire me with confidence. She also assured me that, once I’d resent the materials, she would quickly shunt me along the line to the next assessor in the process, because I was now a ‘priority case’. This, after four months! I’d hate to think of the wait for those who aren’t given priority. Six months, a year, two years? It’s a very destructive and demoralising process.

Jacinta: For the innocent, which of course you are. So while you’re waiting, I suppose you’ll want to find out more about this screening process. It has become more rigorous, it seems. What triggered this more rigorous screening process, and when was it established? Has the screening unit been bolstered, in terms of resources and staffing, to deal with this more rigorous and time-consuming screening process?

Canto: Yes I’ll try to find out more about this online, because again I’m again a little cowardly about approaching DCSI directly. They’ll think I’m a trouble-making nuisance.

Jacinta: Good god Canto, you’re an innocent man who’s been dealt pretty shabbily, first by the police, than the DPP and now the DCSI, and you’re worried about raising a fuss?

Canto: Well, also, to be honest, I don’t think DCSI will be very co-operative.

Jacinta: There’s really nothing online about this. Nobody appears to be protesting apart from yourself, not online at any rate. There’s nothing negative at all about the Screening Unit, The ‘Me Too’ movement is featured strongly, and there’s a lot of irritation online that false allegations are given a lot of attention when under-reporting of real cases of sexual abuse, harassment and so forth, is more of a problem. So it’s not a good environment for bringing all this up. I suppose at least it wasn’t a female that falsely accused you. Females are considered more reliable.

Canto: Well, I’ve received an update from the Ombudsman’s office. Here’s the most important part of it:

As you are aware I have been assessing the processing of your application for a child related screening clearance. I have been provided with updates from the department and your application is still with the Assessment Team. I understand your initial application took 7 months to process. In the department’s  assessment you would be aware that the department is considering such information as your disclosable court outcomes from 2006 offences. The department should have advised you that your review is being managed by a team of people who process your application independently from the initial application  process. I would anticipate given the current backlog of applications the department is processing that your application may still take some weeks to finalise. This office has met with Screening Unit Officers and the Ombudsman has also met with the Chief Executive of DCSI, Mr Tony Harrison, about the delays in the processing of more complex applications. The department is considering strategies to counter the delay and our office will be advised of their progress. At this stage I do not think it is reasonable for this office to continue to monitor your individual application and I will now close your file. I understand that you are anxious to have your application finalised and invite you to recontact our office in approximately four to six weeks if your application is not finalised.

I’ve put the expression ‘2006 offences’ in bold because the expression was offensive to me, they were of course alleged offences, which were never even tested or explored in court let alone proven. But I don’t think the woman meant to offend me, it was inadvertent.

Jacinta: But wording matters hugely to the innocent, I understand. Anyway the letter provides useful information – you now know that the CEO of DCSI is Tony Harrison, and you learned previously that Kelly Tattersall is the director of the Screening Unit. Above all you’ve learned that there is in fact a backlog of applications and that they’re ‘considering strategies’ to counter the delay. It’s a very slight glimpse through the opacity of the Unit’s workings…

Canto: Another quibble I have – and you’re right, wording matters hugely to the innocent – is the reference to my case as ‘complex’. I don’t see it as complex at all, it’s extremely straightforward, but it was made complex by the behaviour of the police and the DPP.

Jacinta: I’ve found Tattersall on Linked-in. She’s been director of the Screening Unit since May 2013, so she would definitely know something you want to know – whether this ‘rigorous’ screening has been going on for the whole of her period in office, or whether it’s new, and exactly how new it is. She would also know, of course, just how many of these ‘complex cases’ there are. It’s so effing difficult to get any information.

Canto: Another person, who would know, of course, is this Tony Harrison. Just searching on him leads me to the ‘about us’ section of DCSI online. The department is overseen by the state minister Zoe Bettison. The website lists the Screening Unit as one of its assets, but I’m blocked from accessing it. It’s quite literally a black box!

Jacinta: Well I can understand the need for privacy of course, but the lack of public access to its general processes is a problem, to put it mildly. Sunlight is the best…. you know.

Canto: For what it’s worth, I’ve downloaded ta copy of the state’s Children’s Protection Act 1993, updated only last month, and we might look more deeply into that next time.

 

Written by stewart henderson

March 12, 2018 at 9:47 am

the battle for justice part 3 – is there any way to clear your name?

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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

shit, please don’t tell me the other 24

I’ve argued that it’s pretty well impossible to clear your name, once you’re arrested and charged with a serious crime, due to the nolle prosequi conundrum. And if the charge has to do with a child, you’re unlikely to get work which may involve children, even if no evidence whatsoever has been presented against you, as in my case. But surely there must be some way to clear your name. It can’t be all doom and gloom. Can it?

  1. Approach the former plaintiff

A number of people who know about the case have asked me – what about the boy who accused you? He’s a young man now, maybe he regrets it all and has changed his tune. If he could be prevailed upon to admit it was all a lie..?

To be honest, I have no inclination whatsoever to go looking for him, and it would probably look bad if I did. And if he changed his story after encountering me, or someone acting in my name, how reliable would his new story be? So I’m very reluctant to go down that path, though it might be a last resort.

2. Approach the DPP

More promising, perhaps, would be to go to the DPP. Why did they abandon the case? My guess has always been that the boy’s story was full of contradictions and kept changing, but it’s also possible that, under pressure, he admitted it was all made up. Way back then. As one of my quotes on nolle prosequi, from my previous post, states: Normally the DPP doesn’t give a reason for such a decision. I’m in the process of requesting all the court documents from the case, and maybe a reason for the decision will appear there, but again I’m very doubtful. And approaching the DPP for a reason now would surely be like trying to get blood out of a stone. Still, such a request might be worth a try.

3. Take it up with the ombudsman/human rights commission

Assuming my appeal fails – and it probably will – the DCSI website kindly suggests that I could take the matter up with these other organisations. The obvious problem with this is that it would be a long-term process, and I’m 61 years old, poor, and desperate to be reinstated in the job I love now. So, yes, I do feel it’s a human rights issue, and I would like to take it up, regardless, with the HRC, though I can hardly imagine it being a priority for them. It’s not a serious option for my immediate situation.

4. Appeal to consistency of character

This is the one that screams at me (and at others) as my best defence. We’ve all heard of criminal profiling, where the police or criminologists seek to predict future offending and victims based on past behaviour, but I have no criminal profile. When I was accused by this boy I was forty-nine years old, with no history, and never any accusations, of violence or sexual abuse of any kind. I’d fostered two young boys before this lad, and I fostered another three after him, with no complaints. I’m proud of what I did as a foster carer, and I’m particularly proud of my work as a teacher in recent years, with mostly young adults but a sprinkling of under eighteens in each class – scores  of them overall. And never a hint of a complaint. On the contrary…

And this is what really hurts. When the police arrested me for rape, they had never so much as seen me before. They knew nothing about me, they wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap. They arrested me purely due to the seriousness of the allegation. When the DPP took up the case, passing it from lawyer to lawyer for about a year, none of them knew me from a bar of soap. I was no more than a name. Similarly, when the DCSI began screening me 11 years later, they didn’t know me from a bar of soap. I was just one of the presumably thousands of individuals they had to screen. And they didn’t investigate me, in the way the Dunedin Study studied particular individuals longitudinally – profiling them, essentially. They investigated documents. The documents of the police and the DPP. The documents relating to that one, isolated allegation. Nothing else mattered. Nothing.

So an appeal to consistency of character won’t work when character isn’t being looked at at any point down the line. The DCSI appears to look at documents, not at character. The DPP also looks at documents, police documents, and the police don’t seem to look at anything much. The DCSI has stated that an adverse finding isn’t binding. Employers can make up their own minds. But it’s no surprise that employers, especially large-scale impersonal employers, given the current state of moral concern or panic over sexual abuse, will have a policy of accepting the DCSI finding. Thus in this case, they’ll rely on DCSI documents, which rely on court documents, which rely on police documents, which rely on, in this case, nothing much. I think they call this ‘procedural fairness’. Let’s not let our human, personal biases get in the way of effective decision-making.

The Dunedin longitudinal study, and every other study of its kind, give strong scientific credibility to the insight that the best guide to future behaviour is past behaviour. My life-time record of civilised, tolerant, non-violent and caring behaviour, however, was never taken into account by the police when they asked me to sit down at the Port Adelaide police station, not knowing me from a bar of soap, and promptly charged me with rape. And everything that I suffered over the next year, and everything that the DCSI is putting me through now, results from that event.

I had a chat with my semi-former boss today (I’ve been sort of suspended from work pending the outcome of my appeal). I told her I held little hope of my appeal being successful, because ‘I had nothing more to declare but my innocence’. I didn’t actually say that, just thought of it now, but that was the gist of it. But interestingly I feel more confident now as I go through the processes. That’s the usual way when you’re under this kind of cloud, your thoughts oscillate, often extremely, from pessimism to optimism and back again.

My hope, ridiculous as it is, is that when organisations like DCSI have their noses rubbed into the basic injustice of taking the most extreme, conservative view of nolle prosequi, thus destroying the careers of good people, they will see reason. And they might also be persuaded of the obvious truth that everyone else is taking the most extreme, conservative view of their findings.

I’ll no doubt survive, deprived of my vocation. I’ll go into retirement earlier, I’ll be more pressed for funds. I’ll most certainly miss my students, more than anything. But I won’t give up the fight. I don’t want any of these people to feel complacently that they’re making this world safer for children and young people. In this case, they’re most definitely not. And it’s not good enough to shrug and think that some collateral damage is necessary when you’re doing the ‘right thing’. It isn’t.

Written by stewart henderson

November 14, 2017 at 11:32 am