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article imageGirls, 8 and 10, must spend weekends with sex offender father

By Chris Dade     Mar 15, 2010 in Crime
It has emerged that a Family Court in Australia ruled in January that two girls, aged eight and 10, must spend every other weekend with their father, at present on the Sexual Offenders Register because of a child pornography conviction.
The ruling by Judge Robert Benjamin at the Family Court in Hobart, capital of the Australian island state of Tasmania, comes with the conditions that the girls must sleep in a bedroom that has a door that they can lock and another adult must be in the house when the girls stay with their father overnight.
According to the Australian/Courier-Mail the arrangement, which involves the girls sharing a room for "the mutual support of one another", will continue until the youngest of the girls is 14.
Judge Benjamin reportedly acknowledged that the girls were in need of "some protection" from their father at night but he added that when together, "awake and alert", and clothed the risk of the girls being subjected to sexual abuse is "diminished".
However the older girl is said to have cried and told counselors that she is afraid to spend the night in the same house as her father.
When the ruling, known as Robins and Ruddock, was made the court was aware that one of the girls had been invited to share a bed by her father, when he had "demonstrated affection toward her in a way that was, in all the circumstances, inappropriate for a child of that age".
At the time of his conviction for what ABC says was "accessing child exploitation material and possessing and reproducing child abuse products" the judge told the unnamed father that he was "far from convinced" that he was no longer a threat to children.
Comments on a case involving two young girls whose mother left their father, placed on the Sexual Offenders Register for five years in 2007, and has been fighting to give her estranged husband very limited access to their daughters, have come from John Abbott of the group Blackshirts and Hetty Johnston of the Bravehearts organization.
Blackshirts is said to be a father's rights group but its website seemingly reveals a wider agenda with regard to marriage, the family and children. And speaking about the decision of the court in Hobart John Abbott said:What we have here is a situation where there's no real allegation that the court has found against the father molesting his own children.
And we have to keep in mind that alienating children from parents is a very serious matter
An alternative view of the situation has been offered by Hetty Johnston, founder and Executive Director of Bravehearts, an organization dedicated to assisting those children who have been the victims of a sexual assault, the parents of an assault victim, or anyone who cares about a child who has been sexually assaulted.
She opposes the father enjoying access to his daughters, saying:He's on the register because a judge, another judge, in a criminal court understood that that's where he should be.
He presented such a danger, potentially, that he needed to be on this register. That needs to be acknowledged and respected by the Family Court.
It makes a mockery of the UN convention on the best interests of the child.
Decisions in the Family Court are supposed to be about the best interests of the child. Children's voices are supposed to be heard, understood and acted upon
More about Australia, Sex offender, Tasmania
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