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Hiding behind a mask of respectability

By Barbara Biggs - posted Friday, 24 November 2006

The charges against the New South Wales Labour MP Milton Orkopoulos and the allegations that party officials heard rumours about it and did nothing, have caused more than a ripple of public concern.

Couple that with the charges earlier this year, against NSW senior prosecutor Patrick Powers SC, relating to suggestions of child porn found on his computer, and these could still look like isolated incidents.

But, consider this: a couple of years ago, former detective Deborah Locke, whose reports of police corruption lead to the NSW Wood Royal Commission, told me child sex offending in the halls of power in NSW went far beyond the police force.


Just before the Commission was wound up, its terms of reference were widened to include the investigation of child sex crimes outside the police service that would implicate senior members of the legal and political fraternity.

When one judge, about to be investigated under the new terms, hanged himself, powers that be decided the Royal Commission had gone far enough.

A couple of years ago, the plans for a national Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in this country were so far advanced the terms of reference were already written. Once again, at the 11th hour, plans for it were quashed.

As a social campaigner and speaker at child protection conferences, I meet a lot of people who work with sexually abused children. What I hear is more than rumour.

I’m regularly told, in furtive whispers, that the most senior levels of power are involved in sexually abusing children.

I know. Sexually abused at 14, my perpetrator was a 42-year-old senior Melbourne barrister. He once told me if I ever told anyone nobody would believe me because I was the daughter of a sex worker and he was a barrister.


The implications of this statement, perceived or real, can be devastating both for individuals and the wider community.

One law librarian and law student together carried out an investigation into all the cases, over a 30-year career, of one senior judge, and found that he had never given a custodial sentence in cases involving child sexual abuse unless the accused had pleaded guilty.

And he is just one. Melbourne police prosecutors who regularly go to court on these matters have told me they know which judges are sympathetic to those accused of child sexual abuse. So much so, that where possible, they try to have their cases adjourned to get another judge.

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About the Author

Barbara Biggs is a former journalist and author of a two-part autobiography, In Moral Danger and The Road Home, launched in May 2004 by Peter Hollingworth and Chat Room in 2006. Her latest book is Sex and Money: How to Get More. Barbara is convenor of the National Council for Children Post-Separation,

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