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Victorian ombudsman calls for stronger working with children checks in wake of Alex Jones case

Victoria’s working with kids checks are among the many weakest within the nation, an investigation by the state’s ombudsman has discovered, and should be modified to guard kids from predators.

Whereas most different states and territories have the discretion to dam folks from working with kids on the premise of knowledge corresponding to youngster safety studies and intervention orders, Victoria’s screening authority can solely deny or revoke an individual’s clearance if they’ve been charged with a criminal offense or been topic to disciplinary findings.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has right now referred to as for a strengthening of the state’s legal guidelines.

“I used to be shocked to find that our working with kids legal guidelines are a lot weaker than different elements of Australia, and that merely has to alter,” Ms Glass advised the ABC.

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Deborah Glass says the failings in Victoria’s working with kids checks are “mind-blowing”.

Ms Glass’s inquiry was sparked by an ABC investigation into former Melbourne Metropolis Mission youth employee Alex Jones.

Jones befriended, groomed and sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy, referred to by the pseudonym Zack.

The ABC revealed that Jones was additionally the perpetrator of a large knowledge breach when he used his log-in to a authorities database to entry personal details about the state’s susceptible kids.

Final 12 months, Jones was sentenced to 6 years in jail for the assault.

The ombudsman’s investigation has revealed Jones was accused of an identical crime in New South Wales, years earlier than he met Zack, however was by no means charged.

“This case has uncovered critical flaws in our Working with Kids Verify scheme,” Ms Glass wrote.

The investigation, tabled in parliament this morning, discovered proof Jones “was the topic of great interstate youngster safety issues” on the time he was employed by the Melbourne Metropolis Mission.

It discovered NSW Police data indicated that between 2008 and 2009, Jones was investigated as a “particular person of curiosity” in relation to a number of alleged offences, together with allegations of rape, sexually exploiting a baby and posing as a youngster to entry supported youth lodging.

The data indicated Jones was arrested and interviewed as soon as, however not charged in relation to the allegations.

Zack’s mom, recognized by the pseudonym Sue, mentioned she was shocked that Jones was in a position to get a working with kids verify regardless of the NSW allegations.

“I really could not consider what I used to be listening to,” she advised the ABC.

A woman is pictured from behind standing in front of her kitchen sink.
Sue hopes her son’s case will result in adjustments that higher shield kids.(ABC Information: Sean Warren)

The ombudsman’s investigation additionally discovered proof that Jones had been flagged by NSW youngster safety authorities in 2009 as an individual suspected of sexually abusing a baby and was additionally topic to a number of Apprehended Violence Orders in NSW, together with an order proscribing his interactions with a youngster deemed prone to sexual exploitation.

However as a result of he was by no means charged with a criminal offense, this info didn’t seem in his nationwide police verify, nor was it disclosed to Working with Kids Verify Victoria.

Even when Victorian authorities had been conscious of the investigations into Jones, underneath the state’s legal guidelines they might not have been grounds to refuse him a working with kids clearance.

“The truth that Alexander Jones was in a position to receive and subsequently maintain a Working with Kids clearance highlights clear legislative shortcomings limiting the effectiveness of Victoria’s Working with Kids Verify scheme,” Ms Glass wrote.

The ombudsman mentioned even when authorities knew about an energetic police investigation into Jones, they had been hamstrung from reassessing and revoking his clearance till expenses had been laid.

“Absurdly, it was dishonesty expenses, relatively than the a number of studies about his alleged sexual exploitation of kids, that in the end offered the statutory foundation to reassess Alexander Jones’s Working with Kids clearance,” Ms Glass mentioned.


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