Hugh grew up in a loving family in Tasmania. He joined the scouts in the early 1980s when he was about 10, and there met Oscar, one of the leaders, who befriended and later sexually abused him.
Hugh told the Commissioner that ‘this guy just basically infiltrated our family in a sly and underhand way … he got under Mum and Dad’s radar, it was a strange relationship where he would take my older brother Henry and me out to meals to restaurants and things’.
His parents never questioned Oscar’s contact with their sons. ‘I think Mum looked at it as him being nice, as him, you know, as in looking after her boys and taking them on trips to things that she probably couldn’t afford.’
Hugh described the way in which people like Oscar gained acceptance in a family: ‘They work on the parents to start with, whether it is consciously or subconsciously, I don’t know. They gain the parents’ trust, the parents give their trust and then they turn their back for a minute and think everything’s fine, I can leave them with Oscar for a weekend and nothing is going to happen because I trust him. I’ve judged him, I’ve seen him, I’ve met him, and then once the parents sort of either turn their backs or do their own thing, that is when they make their move.’
Oscar often threw parties and had sleepovers at his house. Boys were encouraged to consume alcohol, smoke marijuana and play card games. On these occasions and during scout camps Oscar would sexually abuse them.
Hugh was a ‘straight A’ student at school. He later graduated from university and then married. In his early 30s, his successful life came to an abrupt halt after a chance encounter with Oscar at a concert. Afterwards Hugh went home, punched a wall and ended up lying under the bed. He then revealed to his wife the abuse he had experienced as a child.
When Hugh sought advice from others, they told him not to bring up the past. Sometime later, he met another man who had been abused by Oscar and they decided to go to the police. When their approaches to police seemed to be getting nowhere, Hugh and the other man went to Oscar’s house and Hugh physically attacked Oscar and smashed up his house.
He told the Commissioner, ‘and I go to jail for it, right, and I do three months … and he got eight months’ suspended sentence, $450 victims of crime, put on the sex offenders register for three years. So work that out and stay sober? That’s the justice system’.
Hugh said he was seen as a hero by other prisoners. ‘Everyone knew my case before I went in there. I walked in as a hero, the paedophile basher. I had murderers coming up and shaking my hand. “Good on you, mate. What you did was brilliant. Unbelievable. Good on you”.’
He said, ‘there were so many prisoners who’d been sexually abused, so many cases of physical abuse … so often they would say, “Yep, that happened to me, that happened to me”. And this is where the people end up’.
When he got out of jail, Hugh received $30,000 compensation through the Victims of Crime Assistance Scheme.
Hugh said the abuse wrecked his life. ‘I didn’t plan to be 35, destitute, and living in jail by that age, divorced, businesses sort of broken down, mental illness, bipolar.’