Public anger over the failure of authorities to prosecute the men who paid to have sex with a 12-year-old in Tasmanian state care has not subsided in the week since the Children’s Commissioner released the long-awaited report detailing the failures of the state to care for the vulnerable child.
Although both the girl’s mother and the male pimp who offered the 12-year-old for sale to over 100 men have both been tried and jailed, the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to charge the men who paid for sex, believing there was insufficient evidence to convict them in court. This is despite 19 people admitting
to having had sexual contact with her.
Professor Caroline Taylor, Foundation Chair in Social Justice and Head of the Social Justice Research Centre at Edith Cowan University, is one of the many outraged people to have spoken out against the failure of the state to prosecute a case against the men who abused the girl.
In a guest blog post
on the website of prominent women’s activist Melinda Tankard Reist, Professor Taylor argues that, “The failure of the DPP to present the case at court represents . . . an abject failure to both challenge the law to listen to the plight of children, and to challenge those who sexually prey upon them”.
She is especially angry that the DPP personally believed the subjective judgement of the men who claimed not to have known the true age of the abused girl, believing the assertion should be tested in court. She says:
“By not taking the matter to court, we abrogated a little girl’s most basic human right to at least have the law step in on some level to protect her and thousands like her. As a society we should not stand by silently and allow our public office of prosecution to indulge in secretive and un-democratic decision-making.”
Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Liberal Party opposition, led by leader Will Hodgman, failed in an attempted motion of no confidence
in the Children's Minister Lin Thorp when the five Greens joined the 10 Labor members to defeat the motion in State Parliament last night.
The Liberals’ argued that Ms Thorp should resign because, under the Westminster system of government, she is responsible for the failure of her department to protect the 12-year-old girl prostituted whilst a ward of the state.
The fact that Ms Thorp has only been responsible for child protection for two years, when the mistakes leading to the child's prostitution began in 2007, a point highlighted by Children’s Commissioner Paul Mason earlier in the week, may have saved her ministerial career.
Premier David Bartlett has also knocked back the Liberal’s call for a full Commission of Inquiry
into the state’s child protection services, claiming that the estimated cost of such an endeavour would be better spent by going “directly to children”. The Greens are seeking a parliamentary select committee inquiry
into the child protection services.ACL last week reported
that the Children’s Commissioner had recommended prohibiting the purchase of sex, much like the Swedish model of prostitution regulation. Under such a system, no man would be able to claim ignorance for purchasing sex from a minor.
Mr Bartlett was subsequently quoted in the media
saying he personally supported a more regulated sex industry, including legalised brothels, managed through a licensing and registration system - a system that has tragically failed to protect women in mainland states. The Government is soon to commence a review of the state’s Sex Industry Offenses Act 2005
.ACL responded in a media release
, urging Mr Bartlett to honour his pre-election commitment to examine Swedish prostitution laws, and asking the Government to seriously consider how a law that criminalises the purchase of sex would advance the best interests of women and girls