Keelie McMahon is angry and cannot fathom why it took so long for Tasmania Police to charge a paediatric nurse with child sex offences, as complaints piled up against him.
- Keelie McMahon says paedophile nurse James Griffin abused her when she was 14
- Ms McMahon is angry police failed to take action against Griffin sooner
- Tasmania’s Sexual Assault Support Service says it has had a 74 per cent increase in demand in five years
For years, James Geoffrey Griffin worked as a registered nurse at the Paediatric Centre at the Launceston General Hospital (LGH), on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry and at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. He also worked as a massage therapist for children’s sporting teams.
In September 2019, Griffin, aged 69, was charged with a number of criminal offences involving the repeated sexual abuse of a child, after a woman told police he had abused her when she was 11 and he was 58.
By October 2019, four other women had spoken to police and made similar complaints of sexual abuse ranging from the late 1980s through to 2012.
Griffin died by suicide on October 19, 2019, and the coroner noted he had “made admissions” to police, and forensic searches of his home “located a significant amount of child exploitation material”.
An internal Tasmanian police review found the first allegation against Griffin was made in 2009 and there were issues with information sharing between agencies, such as child protection and police.
Keelie McMahon, who alleged she was first abused by Griffin when she was 14, said reading the review into how the investigation against the Launceston nurse was handled had made her angry.
“I read it two, three, four times and it just all sank in that this was happening while I was young, and that this was happening while he abused me, this was happening while multiple people I know were being abused,” she said.
“There are so many people out there suffering with trauma and having to deal with this everyday because they didn’t do their job.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me how so many people in such a high position could see that he was doing these things and just go ‘yeah let’s not worry about it, let’s not take it any further, let’s just let these children suffer and be abused’, just because they put it in the too-hard basket.” she said.
Trail of allegations
The review revealed police received information about potential child abuse in relation to Griffin in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2019, when police finally charged him.
As far back as 2011, child protection told Tasmania Police of sexual assaults on two unidentified victims.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities Tasmania, which handles child protection, released a statement saying it was working closely with police to strengthen information-sharing procedures.
Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine apologised to Griffin’s victims.
“We are truly sorry for any harm caused to the victims who were let down by deficiencies in our investigative processes at the time.”
Ms McMahon said saying sorry did not ease the burden she carried every day.
“It doesn’t take away the mental trauma and everything that we’ve had to deal with and that we’re going to have to deal with for the rest of our lives.”
Survivors must be heard
The CEO of Tasmania’s Sexual Assault Support Service (SASS) Jill Maxwell said the revelation about the lack of action over so many years highlighted the importance of survivors being heard.
“It takes a huge amount of courage for someone to talk about their experience as a survivor,” she said.
“If someone works up the courage to disclose that they’ve experienced sexual assault or sexual violence of any nature, how important it is for us to hear them and let them know we’ve heard them and that we believe them.”
“If that happens, it helps the survivor recover from the trauma much better than having not felt heard through any of that process.”
Ms Maxwell said she thought the culture of reporting sexual abuse was changing with evidence more survivors were coming forward.
“But we’ve still got a long way to go as a community to change those attitudes about hearing their stories, believing them and addressing the system gaps that allows it to happen,” she said.
Ms McMahon said change needed to happen because for every child believed there might be another saved from abuse.
“I think I need to come to terms with the fact that police knew what he was doing and because of the police, I was abused, I lost my childhood, I continued to be abused by more people as I grew up because of this one event that could have been stopped,” she said.
“Now I just have to learn to deal with it, it’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life.”
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