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When did the allegations about the pack-rape of the young aboriginal girl at John Oxley Youth Centre come to light

The Noel Heiner enquiry into complaints about the management of the John Oxley Youth Centre in 1989

The first issue I've tried to find out about is this:

Was the Heiner enquiry properly established?

This extract from a Federal Parliamentary committee enquiry into the matter gives some of the background.

You can find the chapter from the committee's report on the shredding of the Heiner documents here.

Here's the background to Mr Heiner's appointment (JOYC stands for John Oxley Youth Centre).

Heiner 1
So Mr Heiner is appointed by a Minister, it's not a Judicial Enquiry or a Royal Commission of Enquiry.   What did Heiner himself think in relation to his appointment?

Federal parliament report heiner_043
Heiner 2

The first mention of the gang-rape of a girl at the centre.

In the late 1990s the journalist Bruce Grundy uncovers and reports details of the alleged pack-rape of one girl and other alleged crimes at the Centre.   

Bruce Gundy
Bruce grundy 2

What was the advice to the Goss Cabinet about the Heiner documents?

Federal parliament report heiner_003
So the advice of the Crown Solicitor was to gather up and destroy the documents.   Further advice then came that the documents should be deposited in the state archives, or if the archivist gave permission for destruction, then they should be destroyed.   The archivist apparently gave that permission.

You should note that just because legal advice is given, protection from criminal prosecution does not automatically follow.   In other words, if members of the Cabinet knew that legal proceedings were afoot and that the Heiner documents contained relevant evidence, the provision of the Crown Solicitor' advice to destroy the documents would not protect an individual from potential prosecution.

It's also clear from the many enquiries into the matter that there's a range of views about what constitutes "legal proceedings" for the purpose of the criminal code offence of destroying evidence.   There are many fine legal minds who argue that members of the Goss cabinet held the belief that legal proceedings were anticipated and that the documents the cabinet destroyed would reasonably have been believed to have been evidence for those proceedings.

Further, the argument that witnesses and the man at the centre of the enquiry had no indemnity in relation to the statements they'd made are easily dismissed by the government retrospectively providing it, even legislating for it if necessary.

You should note that the Federal Parliamentary Committee's report that I've quoted here recommended that "persons responsible" for the destruction of the Heiner documents should be charged with criminal offences pursuant to the destruction of evidence.   I do not share the committee's view.

Inquiry into crime in the community: victims, offenders, and fear of crime

The Committee on Legal and Constitutionl Affairs at this time was Chaired by Bronwyn Bishop, during the time of the Howard Government.

On Wednesday 11 August 2004, the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs tabled its report on crime in the community entitled Crime in the Community: victims, offenders and fear of crime Volume One and Volume Two.   The report was completed without the presence of Labor Party members on the committe, they resigned on 23 July that year.

Bishop committee resignations

My Conclusion

I think it's important to separate the issues of the shocking way that young children were treated at the John Oxley centre from the Heiner document shredding.   There is a proper, wide ranging enquiry into the treatment of children underway now with the Carmody commission of enquiry well advanced.

Mr Carmody SC will no doubt turn his mind to the Heiner affair, his terms of reference include it.   I've given you my opinion only here - and that is that I think you'd be very hard pressed to successfully prosecute Mr Rudd in his roles with the Goss cabinet in relation to the destruction of the Heiner documents.

Heiner's appointments seems to have been made by the Department, not cabinet

Heiner had great doubt about the terms of appointment and its validity as an enquiry

The Heiner enquiry only ran a couple of months, it does not seem to have uncovered evidence of some of the more sinister and egregious alleged crimes at the centre

The Crown Solicitor gave the advice to destroy documents and the State Archivist also gave that advice.

It's always unsettling to hear of documents being shredded, particularly in circumstances where they might yield otherwise lost evidence of serious criminal offences.

But in this matter, we are talking about the likelihood of bringing Mr Rudd or other members of the Goss Cabinet to trial for this offence:

Destruction of evidence
It's a misdemeanour (not felony, or serious indictable offence) and you'd have to prove wilfull destruction with the intent to prevent it from being used in evidence, after the person became aware that it was or may be required in legal proceedings.