Watchdog warns on budget after police officer’s serial child abuse

William Ton |

The government has accepted all of Chief Constable Paul Reynolds’ recommendations to investigate the abuse.

Tasmania’s Corruption Protection Service is warning it does not have the money to investigate all cases of abuse as the Government increases its powers following an investigation into a serial paedophile police officer.

Senior Sergeant Paul Reynolds exploited his status as a trusted member of the community to molest and sexually abuse up to 52 young boys as early as 1988, according to an independent review led by former war crimes prosecutor Regina Weiss.

Ms Weiss described it as “the most intensive care” she had seen in 20 years.

Reynolds, who worked for a decade after allegations were first made against him, committed suicide in September 2018 while he was under investigation for the allegations.

Tasmania Police have set up a team to support victims of sexual offences committed by former or serving officers. (Rob Blakers/AAP PHOTOS)

Tasmania Police Commissioner Donna Adams has fully accepted five of the review’s recommendations, with two of them pending government approval.

These include a structure whereby police identify and engage with people who have been sexually abused or harassed by officers, and a team within the Tasmania Police Service to support victims of sexual offences committed by former or serving officers.

Ms Weiss also called on the police to increase community engagement and build trust between officers, vulnerable groups and sporting and recreational organisations to prevent, identify and report instances of grooming and sexual exploitation.

The Government is currently considering introducing a recovery programme for Reynolds’ victims and extending the powers of the Integrity Commission to include a compulsory inquiry so that it can investigate all reports of grooming and sexual abuse by police officers.

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff pledged on Wednesday to “properly implement” the review’s recommendations, which Police Minister Felix Ellis said would be implemented as a matter of priority.

Jeremy Rockliff has committed to implementing the recommendations in the review. (Rob Blakers/AAP PHOTOS)

Investigating abuse of power in public office was an important task that needed to be done, but Chief Integrity Commissioner Greg Melick said the organization’s budget could not support the level of investigation and oversight recommended in the report.

“We only have the resources to use our current powers as the Tasmanian Parliament and the public would expect and anticipate,” he said in a statement.

The committee’s complaints and oversight teams had fewer than five full-time staff combined, Mr Melick said.

“With current resources it is not possible to comprehensively (supervise) approximately 40,000 public sector employees in Tasmania, including more than 1400 police officers.”

Ms Weiss presented her report last week after hearing from 87 people, including 15 survivors or their families.

She found that Reynolds used his sense of power as a police officer to groom and abuse his victims and their families.

As someone heavily involved in local football and basketball coaching, as well as administration, Ms Weiss said sports were his “hunting ground”, targeting children, often under the pretext of giving massages or sports therapy.

The audit found shortcomings in Reynolds’ reporting of crimes that contributed to his decades-long criminal history.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse Compensation and Support Service 1800 211 028

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Children’s Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)