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Optimising the inquiry into child sex abuse

By Evan Whitton - posted Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Common lawyers, including judges, lawyer-politicians, legal bureaucrats, and academics, may find some of this new and depressing, but there is no point in being other than blunt about such an important inquiry.

Australiauses two legal systems: the adversary system used in common law countries, Britain and its onetime colonies, and the more widespread inquisitorial (truth-seeking) system used in France and elsewhere.

An inquiry's task is to find and manifest the truth, but no university teaches inquisitorial techniques, perhaps because law schools fear students and the wider public might get to like a truth-seeking system.


The result is that staff are not trained for the job and no inquiry is run properly. Inquests, Royal commissions, standing commissions on corruption such as the NSW Independent Commission on Corruption (ICAC) are bastard combinations of adversarial and inquisitorial techniques.

Bron McKillop, of Sydney University law school, is the authority on the French and German inquisitorial systems. His advice should be sought.


The basis of all strategy is the selection and maintenance of the aim(s).


  • To find and manifest the truth of child sex crimes.
  • To provide a measure of justice for victims by collecting evidence to put on trial pedophiles and those who covered-up their crimes.
  • To minimise the cost to taxpayers who fund the inquiry.


  • A cover-up of a crime is a crime in itself, perversion of the course of justice.
  • Organised crime is systematic criminal activity for money or power.

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About the Author

Evan Whitton is a former reporter who became a legal historian after seeing how two systems dealt with the same criminal, Queensland police chief Sir (as he then was) Terry Lewis.

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