- From: Sunday Mail (SA)
- June 13, 2009
The mother of the four youngsters, all aged under 15, requested custody at a recent Family Court hearing in Adelaide.
The unsuccessful application was made not long after the children's father was found guilty in the Adelaide District Court of multiple sex offences against a minor.
A transcript of the Family Court hearing shows the presiding judge was aware of the father's convictions and that he was on bail awaiting sentencing.
Further details, including the names of the family, cannot be legally reported. The mother and her current husband also both have criminal records.
However, child support groups have condemned the idea that a convicted pedophile could be granted custody of any child.
Victim Support Service SA said the community would be "alarmed" at a situation where a pedophile was allowed to care for children.
"Our organisation would be worried too about that, and we would want to know about the reasoning and rationale behind such a decision and what steps are in place to protect any child in such circumstances," the service's chief executive Michael Dawson said.
"I would think it is inappropriate for someone with a previous history - through conviction of crimes against children - to be provided with the opportunity to supervise children.
"From my personal experience, I've never heard of any such case before."
The Australian Childhood Foundation also expressed serious concern about the risks pedophiles pose to children, particularly in an unsupervised environment.
"Convicted pedophiles can't work as a teacher, be a foster carer or footy coach, because society recognises that past behaviour is the best indicator of future risk," foundation chief executive Joe Tucci said.
"So as a matter of principal, children shouldn't be in unsupervised contact or custody of an adult with convictions for sexual assault against children."
Mr Tucci said courts should err on the side of caution and treat convictions of sexual assault against children as a "red light" when deciding what is in a child's best interest.
A spokeswoman for the Family Court said judges could only award custody of a child to those parties who applied for it.
"If a judge has concerns about a child's welfare, they cannot make an order that a child be put in the care of the state," the spokeswoman said.
"A judge can ask but not compel a state welfare department to intervene if they believe a child is at risk of abuse or neglect."
The Department of Families and Communities said the Family Court may advise it of any "child protection concerns (the court has) about a child".
"Families SA assesses the notification like any other and takes action if necessary," a department spokesman said.
"Also, the Family Court may make a formal request that the Department of Families and Communities become a party to a case.
"If DFC accepts the request and becomes a party, it then makes representations to the court about what is in the best interests of the child or children."