As part of his training to be a detective, Julien spent nearly a year in a unit that investigated and prosecuted allegations of child abuse. In the 1990s he requested permanent posting to continue what he considered satisfying work. As well as investigating intra-familial abuse, Julien initiated an expansion of the unit’s function so that it began to focus on paedophilic individuals and networks.
Many police viewed child protection as ‘welfare’ work and made derogatory remarks about the unit. Julien said the perception changed somewhat in the years he was there, mainly because the team succeeded in getting significant convictions and long sentences for offenders.
The unit had a couple of champions within the police hierarchy, but the structure of the service overall wasn’t very supportive. Julien and his staff weren’t allowed to claim overtime and the unit’s under-resourcing extended to having to rely on the donation of a second-hand computer from another team to do their work.
Julien noticed a reluctance on the part of senior officers to prosecute child sex offenders with high profiles. He got the impression they thought too many prosecutions would give the appearance the state had a paedophile problem. He compiled documentation for a high-level inquiry in which he outlined clear evidence of paedophilia networks, but senior police chose not to present his submission and they reported to the inquiry there was no evidence of networks, something Julien said ‘was clearly false’.
‘It comes back to that thing, was that simply an unwillingness to accept that this was a criminal problem or was there something else, and/or some other more nefarious reason which they tried to downplay.’
A few years later, the police service introduced a ‘tenure’ system which specified a detective could only stay within a particular squad for three years. Exceptions were made for some specialist areas and Julien attempted to put forward the case for child protection being one, but he was told, ‘Don’t even bother putting in a submission to try and stay on this. I’m not even going to read it’.
Within a short period of time he and another staff member were transferred. This left a large void in the unit’s knowledge and experience, and within months the team had been subsumed into another unit. Julien said the disbanding of the unit and his forced move coincided with the prosecution of several well-known people from the media, judiciary and Catholic Church.
Julien told the Commissioner that in the years he’d been working in child protection, he’d seen many instances of offenders moving between states to avoid prosecution. Extraditions were expensive and tended to be undertaken only for crimes like homicide, armed robbery and drug offences.
He cited Victoria Police as leaders in child protection, largely because of the efforts of one particular senior-sergeant in the sex crimes unit. Julien recommended changes to national legislation and the forming of a multi-jurisdictional agency responsible for a ‘best-practice model for the future response of investigation of paedophile crime across Australia’.
‘Whilst obviously I can talk about things in the past and the way I think that things weren’t handled properly … at the end of the day that is the past. We can’t change that. But I think we should be informed by the past in terms of where we go into the future.’
‘I think also in terms of best practice, certainly in my time, and obviously I ended up spending several years working in the area and got, on various occasions, to go to most of the other jurisdictions. And everybody worked so differently. There was no consistency really, in terms of a lot of it. I mean, the laws are all different for a start. …
‘I spent probably some of my best professional years doing this. And, I mean, I could go back to the satisfaction of this sort of work tomorrow. I’m not sure I want to go back to policing.’