A Brisbane tribunal has upheld a decision to ban a long-time community volunteer from working with children after he was investigated by police, but never criminally charged for alleged assaults on a 16-year-old child.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) member Bevan Hughes, in a recently published ruling, supported the state’s Department of Justice and Attorney-General (DJAG) Director-General’s decision to revoke the Blue Card of a man who had “admitted to serious boundary violations of a child.’’
QCAT was told the man, identifiable only as DP, was a well-educated, middle-aged professional with a “life-long commitment’’ to a well-known volunteer-led rescue and safety organisation and had an unblemished history of working with children until criminal allegations were levelled against him.
As a result, DJAG’s Director-General issued a “negative notice’’ and DP’s Blue Card was cancelled in September 2018.
While details of the allegations against DP and the organisation he was a volunteer are detailed in Mr Hughes’s decision, Proctor has opted against publishing them as they are graphic in nature and were not known to the popular volunteer organisation until after the police investigation began.
Under Queensland’s Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening Act) 2000, any person who works or volunteers in any regulated child-related employment or business are required to be screened by the state-government’s Blue Card Services agency.
The screening and issuing of Blue Cards was established to ensure all children in Queensland had the right and expectation to be safe and protected from harm – particularly in areas such as child care, education, sport, cultural activities and foster care.
Mr Hughes, in his eight page ruling published last week (March 31), said: “DP has admitted to serious boundary violations of a child.’’
“Police investigated related allegations of indecent assault (against a 16-year-old child). However, the investigation never did proceed.’’
“On 17 September 2018, (DJAG’s) Director-General … issued DP with a ‘negative notice’ to work with children. This means that DP cannot obtain a Blue Card to work in certain types of employment and volunteer work.”
Mr Hughes said DP referred DJAG’s decision to QCAT for review on the grounds DP was not convicted of any “serious offence’’ and a “positive notice’’ should have been issued and his Blue Card reinstated.
“In 2018, serious allegations were made that DP had a relationship with or indecently assaulted a 16-year-old (child). DP denied many of the allegations and no (criminal) charges were ever laid,’’ he said.
“The community must be confident that DP is aware of the psychological and emotional impact of his behaviour on others sufficient to work with children. DP (in his submissions to QCAT was) seeking to minimise his offending behaviour … and lacks the insight into the impact of his behaviour.’’
“DP is entitled to the presumption of innocence for the allegations he denied. However, these are not criminal proceedings … (and) the Tribunal’s role is not that of a Magistrate assessing whether the Crown has a prima facie case sufficient to commit DP for (criminal) trial or even determine whether the evidence is sufficient to bring charges.
“(But) the allegations (against DP) are serious and … raise significant concerns about DP’s ability to provide a protective environment for children. At the very least, much of the behaviour DP has admitted to constituted significant boundary breaches.’’
Mr Hughes said the nature and seriousness of the behaviour DP had admitted to authorities, together with a lack of insight into the impact of that behaviour, showed DP was an unacceptable risk of harm to children.
“Children depend on adults to have insight into their actions and there likely effect. It was DP’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for children,’’ he said.
“DP has not shown this. His case is ‘exceptional’ and prevents issuing him with a positive notice for a ‘Blue Card’.’’