Mark David De Lacy

Posted: October 26, 2012 by Serendipity in Victoria

Spelling error puts a child in harm’s way


September 17, 2009

A SPELLING error during a police check led to a child being allowed to live with a convicted sex offender, the Victorian Government has admitted.

The Government was responding to a scathing report by the Ombudsman, who attacked child protection authorities for allowing vulnerable children to live with such offenders.

The report comes before what is expected to be a highly critical investigation into child protection services, due in coming weeks. Ombudsman George Brouwer said that, in one case, a child was allowed to live with a convicted sex offender because the Department of Human Services failed to conduct criminal record checks.

But Community Services Minister Lisa Neville blamed the disturbing case on a bureaucratic bungle. She told The Age that the department had made a spelling mistake.

”I have been advised that the department undertook a criminal record search, but it spelled the name incorrectly and therefore did not pick up on the sex offence conviction,” she said. ”If the department had spelled the name correctly, the criminal record check would have shown that he had a sex offence, and that may have led to a different decision.”

She admitted that ”getting these things correct is critical, because they go to the issue of ensuring a child is not placed in a situation of risk”.

The case has prompted Ms Neville to order a review of every child in care to ensure police checks have been carried out.

The Ombudsman said the child had previously made allegations of abuse against the man, although The Age believes his conviction was not directly related to the child.

In another alarming case, Mr Brouwer criticised the department for its delay in intervening after it became aware that two boys, aged five and six, were living with a convicted child sex offender.

A family member had complained about where the boys were living on November 4 but the department’s intake area, which first got the call, did not refer the matter to the response unit until November 21.

By then, the boys had moved to an unknown location.

”DHS therefore was unable to check on the boys’ safety and wellbeing,” Mr Brouwer said. ”Although the boys were located and eventually received suitable accommodation, I remained critical of the amount of time DHS took to act.”

He said the situation arose because resources were stretched to meet demand, and ”the threshold for intervention increases”. This either delayed or prevented the investigation of serious allegations.

Ms Neville conceded there was a ”failure of the department to take seriously this notification and to act quickly in a timely way to ensure the safety of these children”.

The Age revealed in July that the Ombudsman was conducting an inquiry into the state’s child protection system. His annual report also cites ”excessive” workloads, with many children not allocated case workers. One supervisor had 64 children awaiting workers.

A former Victorian detective who helped convict notorious paedophile Mark David De Lacy almost 20 years ago said nothing had changed – the system still failed the victims.

”So what’s changed, nothing, that’s how it was then and that’s how it is now,” John Wilde said. ”We are no better off now than we were 20 years ago.”

Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary said: ”[Children] are vulnerable to start off with, and for us to be putting them in even more harm’s way is pretty dreadful.”

He added: ”It is important to get more resources, but it’s no good just to put unskilled hands on the deck … It’s not just numbers we’re talking about, it’s skills and training and all that goes with the provision of the sorts of services that these kids deserve.”

Premier John Brumby said he was concerned about the issues raised and policies would be announced to prevent children slipping through the cracks.


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  1. Hayley Nuebel says:

    Please tell me the whereabouts of mark David delacey ? I need to k ow if this scum is still in jail or out , where and why..

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