The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has made available the report of its first public hearing. Report of Case Study No. 1: The response of institutions to the conduct of Steven Larkins, was also tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament yesterday afternoon.
Royal Commissions CEO Janette Dines said Steven Larkins occupied positions of responsibility in Scouts Australia NSW and the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service.
“This public hearing provided an opportunity to examine how both institutions responded to the behaviour of Mr Larkins,” said Ms Dines.
“The scope and purpose of this public hearing was to examine the appropriateness of the practices and procedures of regulatory agencies and how effectively these were applied, as well as giving consideration to the criminal justice system as it applies to sexual offenders.”
The report makes 27 findings concerning institutional responses to the conduct of Mr Larkins.
Significant findings of the report include that:
While Scouts Australia NSW did investigate early complaints against Larkins, and issued him with an official warning, this was not effectively communicated within the organisation.
Allegations of indecent assault of a scout made against Larkins in 1997 were investigated by inexperienced police officers. Delays in the investigation and misinformation provided by NSW Police officers influenced the mother of the victim to ask that the prosecution not proceed.
In 2003, the NSW Department of Community Services provided Steven Larkins’ Working with Children Check assessment directly to him. This allowed him to conceal the assessment from the management of the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service and continue his employment.
Important information about Larkins’ Working with Children Check and role was not communicated between the NSW Department of Community Services, the NSW Commission for Children and Young People and the management of the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service. This allowed Larkins to deceive all of those bodies and continue to work directly with children until 2011.
Staff and members of the management committee at the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service did not report concerns regarding Larkins behavior to the relevant agencies. Larkins was able to wield influence over an inexperienced management committee that failed to follow its own procedures.
Along with the findings made in the report, a number of systemic issues were identified in relation to policies and procedures for preventing, reporting and responding to child sexual abuse, training of police working in this area, record keeping, communication with victims and their families, governance of out of home care and regulation of carers, sentencing options and victim support needs. These issues will be considered further in other public hearings or roundtables.
“The Royal Commission will continue to prepare case study reports that contain findings arising from public hearings into particular institutions. The next case study report, due for release next month, will be in relation to the responses of YMCA and police to allegations about Jonathon Lord,” said Ms Dines.
“The Royal Commission is also set to deliver an interim report by 30 June. The interim report will set out what the Royal Commission has done to date as well as define the scope of the task and what future work is required to fulfil the Commission's terms of reference.”
The full report of Case Study No. 1 is now available.