terça-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2007

Denied justice, child rape victim may not recover

THE young girl at the centre of a rape scandal that has shocked the nation could blame herself and feel great shame unless her assailants are properly punished, according to her carer.

Bruce Gibson, a high-profile and respected Cape York-based Aboriginal advocate involved in the young girl's rehabilitation, told The Courier-Mail yesterday he was "disgusted" by the lenient sentences given to the nine males from Aurukun who last year raped the child, then aged 10.

"That the perpetrators went relatively unpunished has the potential to create or add to her shame," he said.

"When she eventually returns to Aurukun she needs to be able to go back a very strong and proud woman, knowing the perpetrators have been dealt with. If this does not happen, the shame she might feel could have serious implications for her. It could even lead to her harming herself."

The legal officer who urged Cairns District Court Judge Sarah Bradley not to impose custodial sentences on the nine males was last night stood down pending an inquiry.

Steve Carter had been demoted about 18 months ago from crown prosecutor to legal officer, The Courier-Mail learned yesterday.

Transcripts released yesterday showed Mr Carter describing the rape as "a form of childish experimentation, rather than one child being prevailed upon by another" and said the males including a 17, 18 and 26-year-old, were "naughty".

Calls have been made by indigenous leaders and child welfare campaigners for Judge Bradley to stand down following revelations that the three men and six boys who pleaded guilty to having sex with the little girl escaped custodial sentences.

Judge Bradley gave the three adults – one aged 26 – wholly suspended six-month jail terms.
The boys were given probationary periods and none had convictions recorded.

Judge Bradley was also under fire for saying the 10-year-old had "probably agreed to have sex with all" of the offenders.

"I'm disgusted these young men have been able to escape appropriate punishment," Mr Gibson said.

Mr Gibson, who stood as an Independent for the far north Queensland seat of Cook in the 2004 state election, said the West Coast Cape York Peninsula Traditional Land Owners Association, which he heads, was working with a child protection organisation to rehabilitate the girl by providing advice on the culturally appropriate management of her welfare.

Mr Gibson warned against the case sparking any "knee-jerk Howard government-style intervention" in Cape York such as occurred earlier this year in the Northern Territory.

Premier Anna Bligh ruled out any such intervention in Cape York, saying the problems in far north Queensland were very different.

"We understand how much work has to be done to improve the lives of women, children and families in indigenous communities," Ms Bligh said.

She provided more details of a review of sexual abuse cases on the Cape. She said the review would look at the sentences meted out in 64 sexual assault, rape or indecent dealing cases on the Cape over the past two years.

Ms Bligh admitted the Department of Child Safety had failed the little girl – who had also been sexually assaulted aged five and eight – but insisted a 2006 review of the department's handling of the case proved the matter had not been swept under the carpet.

"There is absolutely no question the system failed the little girl," Ms Bligh said.

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