An internal review into how Tasmania Police handled its investigation into an alleged paedophile nurse has revealed the police were told of allegations he was abusing children as early as 2009.
- Police received information about potential child abuse in relation to Mr Griffin in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015
- Mr Griffin took his own life in 2019, after being charged with multiple child sex offences
- Premier Peter Gutwein said he was shocked and disappointed by the internal review
It took another 10 years for police to charge James Geoffrey Griffin, and only after a complaint was received by an alleged victim.
Even after police received the formal complaint, it took from early May until the end of July for his workplace, the Launceston General Hospital, to be informed of the allegations.
The review revealed the agency received information about potential child abuse in relation to Mr Griffin in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
The first report to police came from an interstate police agency alleging Griffin had taken photos of children in a public place.
Police investigated that report by executing a search warrant and speaking to Griffin, but found no evidence of an offence.
Tasmania Police’s review found it handled those allegations appropriately.
The 2013 report related to allegations of “inappropriate touching and grooming behaviour” by Mr Griffin.
Police referred the matter to child protection, who spoke to Mr Griffin and the alleged victim.
Both denied the allegations, so the file was closed and police took no further action. Police did not speak to Mr Griffin nor the potential victim.
The 2015 report related to a referral from the Australian Federal Police related to Griffin and sexual offending and child exploitation material.
“Deficiencies in the management of this information by Tasmania Police have been identified and are the subject of a current Professional Standards investigation that relates to the Police Service Code of Conduct,” the review said.
As a result of the internal review, Tasmania Police said it had now implemented a specialist investigative and policy team to improve processes and procedures related to investigations into child sex abuse.
Mr Griffin took his own life in October 2019 after being charged with multiple child sex offences.
Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine apologised to Mr Griffin’s alleged victims for any harm caused by the deficiencies identified in the report.
“I think this has fallen short of everyone’s standards, we need to make sure we continue to learn and evolve in relation to these matters.”
Commissioner Hine said he wanted to reassure victims they could safely come forward and that their “matters will be pursued”.
The report identified problems in information sharing across agencies, particularly with the Department of Communities, and called for a review of investigative guidelines of child sex offences.
Premier Peter Gutwein said the government would provide an addition $1.5 million in funding for a historic complaints’ review process lead by a specialist team within Tasmania Police, looking particularly at police and Department of Communities files.
“My expectation is that no stone be left unturned,” Mr Gutwein said.
‘The voice of victims matters’
Mr Gutwein also apologised to survivors of child sex abuse “where any agency may not have handled information appropriately”.
“The voice of victims matters, it truly does, and any victims of child sex abuse, whether historic or contemporary, need to know that they can come forward, and that when they do, they will be heard and appropriate action will be taken.
The report won’t be made public before the Commission of Inquiry into child abuse in the state service — Tasmania’s version of a royal commission – gets underway later this year.
The Government announced the Commission last year and since then 14 state service employees have been stood down over historical allegations of sexual abuse.
Some questions from the media would not be answered by Commissioner Hine and Mr Gutwein because they said they didn’t want to prejudice the commission’s proceedings.
“We are being as open and transparent as we can; on legal advice we cannot provide more information other than the Outcomes Report without prejudicing the Commission of Inquiry or identifying victims,” Commissioner Hine said in a statement.
“It is essential that the Inquiry is not impeded in its full examination of all matters.”
There is also a continuing internal police investigation around how information was dealt with, but Commissioner Hine wouldn’t be drawn on the number of people involved in that because it is ongoing.
Mr Gutwein said this report was a starting point for a lot more improvements and a lot more shocking developments.
“In terms of the commission of inquiry, Tasmanians needs to brace themselves, I think there will be a range of matters brought forward that will concern and shock Tasmanians.”
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