CHAPTER 1 : Background to the Inquiry

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CHAPTER 1 : Background to the Inquiry

Scope of the Committee's Inquiry

1.1 On 8 December 1994 the Committee agreed that, pursuant to its statutory duties, [note #1] it would inquire into and report on:

The NCA and Organised Paedophile Networks

1.2 In August 1993 the Attorney-General and the Minister for Justice commissioned a review of Commonwealth law enforcement arrangements. Amongst other matters, the review was asked to ensure that the functions of the various agencies, including the National Crime Authority, were clearly defined, and that there was no unnecessary duplication or overlap in their activities.

1.3 The review was conducted by officers from several Commonwealth departments and agencies including the Authority. Its report, entitled Review of Commonwealth Law Enforcement Arrangements, was delivered to the commissioning Ministers in February 1994. Chapter 4 of the report consisted of "An Assessment of the Changing Nature of Major and Organised Crime in Australia". The chapter heading noted that the chapter had "been substantially edited to protect source material". The chapter contained a discussion of the activities of various well-recognised crime groups. It also referred to "organised paedophile networks", making the following comments:

1.4 Later, on page 104, the Review report stated:

1.5 In paragraph 18.27, the report recommended that the projects being undertaken by the Authority be expanded to encompass those in this list. This recommendation and the statements in paragraphs 4.72 and 4.73 are the Review report's "conclusions" which are referred to in paragraph (c) of the terms of the Committee's inquiry.

1.6 In March 1994, the Government accepted this recommendation of the Review. As a result, organised paedophile networks became a subject of interest for the Authority for the first time since its creation in 1984. The Inter-Governmental Committee on the National Crime Authority [note #2] resolved at its meeting on 22 December 1994 to endorse the Authority's proposal to conduct national strategic assessments on eight of the eleven groups listed in paragraph 1.4 above, including "organised paedophile networks". [note #3] The IGC also endorsed the Authority's proposal to seek the support of other Australian law enforcement agencies and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence in preparing each of the assessments. An Australian Customs Service intelligence project on the nature and extent of the trafficking of child pornography into and out of Australia, Project Amigo, has been largely subsumed into the Authority's work. [note #4]

1.7 In addition to obtaining the support of these bodies, the Authority has been consulting widely with community groups and others likely to have relevant information on organised paedophile activity. [note #5] The Authority expects to complete its assessment early in 1996. At present, the Authority does not have a reference under which to investigate organised paedophile networks. [note #6]

Relationship to Other Inquiries

1.8 The Committee has assisted the Authority by providing it with copies of relevant published background materials and other information it obtained in the course of its own inquiry. The Authority has also provided some background information to the Committee, in addition to its submission to the inquiry. However, pending the completion of the Authority's strategic assessment, it did not feel in a position to offer any definitive views or conclusions to the Committee.

1.9 In March 1994, the NSW Parliament referred allegations about police protection of paedophiles to the Independent Commission Against Corruption for investigation. ICAC produced an interim report in September 1994. [note #7] This report briefly described some NSW Police investigations into paedophile activity that it had examined during the first phase of its inquiry and noted that:

1.10 The ICAC investigations were subsequently passed to the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service, which had been established in May 1994 with the Hon Justice James Wood as the Royal Commissioner. The Royal Commission's terms of reference (as modified on 21 December 1994) require it, amongst other matters, to inquire into:

1.11 The Committee decided that it would not be productive for it to attempt to inquire into matters which were due to be examined by the Royal Commission and it has not done so. Liaison was established with the Royal Commission and some written material was sent to, and received from, it. In addition, the Committee Chairman and Deputy Chairman met with Justice Wood and his senior staff in Sydney in May 1995.

1.12 The Victorian Parliament's Crime Prevention Committee reported in May 1995 on its inquiry into child sexual assault. [note #9] The inquiry included issues relating to paedophile activity and examined relevant matters in several overseas countries. The Victorian Committee assisted us by providing a considerable volume of written background material.

1.13 One aspect of the Committee's inquiry related to the distribution of child pornography. Issues were raised concerning the use of computer bulletin boards, the Internet and Usenet newsgroups to disseminate child pornography and to assist networking amongst paedophiles. The Committee has considered some of these issues in its report. However, it is conscious that the issues are part of a much larger question - the use of computer links to disseminate illegal or offensive material of all types. The Committee did not attempt to address the broader issues involved. To have done so would have taken it well beyond the terms of its inquiry, and would have taken it into issues being investigated and considered elsewhere. [note #10]

Conduct of the Committee's Inquiry

1.14 In December 1994 the Committee wrote to relevant Ministers, law enforcement agencies and other organisations inviting submissions to its inquiry. In mid-January the inquiry was advertised in major newspapers throughout Australia. The Committee received submissions from 40 individuals and organisations (See Appendix 1 for a list of those who made submissions).

1.15 The Committee also received a considerable number of letters which did not directly address the terms of the Committee's inquiry in any detail. Many of these nonetheless gave the Committee useful insights into how claims of child sex abuse are investigated, the problems of evidence and proof in such cases, and similar matters not directly related to organised paedophile networks as such. Where the Committee received information about the possible committing of specific criminal offences, it passed it to appropriate law enforcement agencies unless it was clear that they were already aware of the matters. The Australian representative of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography assisted the Committee by providing copies of pertinent overseas conference papers and other material in response to a Committee request.

1.16 Before the Committee decided the undertake the inquiry, it had obtained from the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence a copy of its confidential May 1993 report, Paedophiles and child sexual abuse: a national assessment. After the inquiry commenced and at the Committee's request, the ABCI provided further information in the form of a second confidential report, Project Egret: an overview, February 1995.

1.17 The Committee held hearings in Melbourne on 11 July 1995 and in Canberra the following day. While most of the proceedings were in public, a small amount of evidence was also taken in camera on both days. Appendix 2 lists those who appeared. In addition, the Committee briefly discussed its inquiry with the National Crime Authority during a public meeting it had with the Authority in Sydney on 11 August 1995.

1.18 The Committee expresses its appreciation to all those who assisted it during its inquiry.

Structure of the Remainder of the Report

1.19 The next chapter deals with definitions and provides some statistical and other background on paedophile activities in Australia. Chapter 3 addresses paragraph (a) of the terms of the Committee's inquiry, which requires the Committee to identify "the extent to which organised paedophile networks have become established in Australia and the methods and practices which are used to perpetrate associated criminal offences". Chapter 4 considers the issues raised in the remaining paragraphs of the terms of the inquiry.

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1. The Committee's duties under section 51 of the National Crime Authority Act 1984 are set out on p. iii above. [back to body]

2. The National Crime Authority Act 1984, s. 8 provides for this Inter-Governmental Committee, which presently consists of a Minister representing the Commonwealth and each State and Territory. Its functions, set out in s. 9 of the Act, include the approving of referral of specific matters to the Authority for investigation and the general monitoring of its work. [back to body]

3. Submission from the National Crime Authority, 20 April 1995, p. 2.[back to body]

4. Hansard transcript of the Committee's public hearings on the inquiry (hereinafter "Evidence"), pp. 175-76 (Australian Customs Service). [back to body]

5. In mid-1995, the NCA circulated its "Organised Paedophile Activity: National Strategic Assessment: Information Collection Plan", which described the information it was seeking, to a large number of community and other groups that might have relevant information. [back to body]

6. Under the NCA Act the Authority's functions include intelligence-gathering and investigating. In relation to the latter, the Authority can investigate relevant criminal activity in one of two modes:

7. NSW, Independent Commission Against Corruption, Interim Report on Investigation into Alleged Police Protection of Paedophiles, Sydney, September 1994. [back to body]

8. ibid., p. 7. [back to body]

9. Combating Child Sexual Assault: An Integrated Model (First Report upon the Inquiry into Sexual Offences Against Children and Adults), Melbourne, May 1995. [back to body]

10. The Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies is currently conducting an inquiry into regulation of computer on-line services, and held a public seminar on the topic on 4 April 1995 and public hearings on 22 September and 12 October 1995. The Government has circulated a discussion paper on the topic: see Attorney-General's Department and Department of Communications and the Arts, Consultation Paper on the Regulation of On-Line Information Services, Canberra, 7 July 1995. In addition, the Minister for Communications and the Arts announced on 8 August 1995 that he had directed the Australian Broadcasting Authority to investigate the content of on-line information and entertainment services and report by 30 June 1996: News Release by the Minister, 8 August 1995. [back to body]