Freedom Law

Family Court report writer charged with child sex offences

Family Court report writer charged with sexually abusing three children

Scales of Justice statue of a woman holding a set of scales and a sword while wearing a crown outside Brisbane's Supreme Court.

An accused paedophile has been used as an expert by the Family Court in custody disputes that involve allegations of child sexual abuse.

Family Court Key points:

  • The Family Court psychologist remains on bail and the matter has been adjourned to October
  • It is alleged the offending occurred many decades ago
  • One parent said during a meeting with the psychologist he made her feel extremely uncomfortable

The Family Court psychologist, who has since been charged with sexually abusing three children, was appointed by the Family Court to make custody recommendations in cases where one parent had accused the other of sexual abuse.

One of Australia’s foremost family law experts said it could open the way for custody rulings involving the expert to be overturned.

One mother, who was sent to the psychologist in 2013 after alleging her three-year-old daughter was abused by her father, told the ABC the psychologist had made her feel extremely uncomfortable.

Greta* said he implied she may not be satisfying her husband sexually and even if he had abused their daughter it did not mean he couldn’t have a relationship with the child.

“He was kind of overly physical with me. He kept touching my arm and my leg. It made me feel creeped out. He said weird things. He kept telling me that he knew about real paedophiles and that they would show up on [psychometric] tests,” she said.

“He was absolutely adamant that he would be able to tell a real paedophile. And I just was like ‘well what do you mean by a real paedophile?’.

“My first impression was ‘this isn’t going to go well’.”

The psychologist’s family report was never provided to the court.

However, in another case the psychologist’s report recommended the child “continue to live with [the father]” after the mother raised allegations of sexual abuse, saying he “found no significant evidence” the abuse had occurred.

At the time of the family report interviews the psychologist had not been charged with any offences. It is alleged the offending occurred many decades ago.

University of Queensland professor Patrick Parkinson, said a child sex abuse conviction could “absolutely” give a parent grounds to seek to quash custody rulings linked to the psychologist.

“In a situation where the judicial decision was based on, or was influenced by, a report which, in the light of subsequent events, one might cast doubt upon the reliability of it, I would have thought that would be grounds to reopen it,” he said.

“The fact that a [an expert] has been convicted would in my view amount to, in itself, sufficient changed circumstances for the court to look at the case again — in the light of the current circumstances of the child.”

Even the charges, coupled with other changes in circumstances could form grounds to challenge a custody ruling, he said.

The psychologist remains on bail and the matter has been adjourned to October.

The psychologist cannot be identified for legal reasons.

When asked what measures it had taken to ensure any expert charged with criminal offences was not used by the court, a spokeswoman said the court could not comment.