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Australia Survivor of serial sexual abuser James Geoffrey Griffin calls for national review

08:15  28 february  2021
08:15  28 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a person sitting on a table: Keelie McMahon wants a national review into how Griffin was allowed to abuse children at the Launceston General Hospital. (ABC News: Jessica Moran) © Provided by ABC NEWS Keelie McMahon wants a national review into how Griffin was allowed to abuse children at the Launceston General Hospital. (ABC News: Jessica Moran)

A victim of a nurse who preyed on and abused sick children in the Launceston General Hospital has called for a national review into how that abuse was allowed to continue for more than 10 years.

An internal investigation by Tasmania Police into why action was not taken sooner when complaints were made about nurse James Geoffrey Griffin has found officers missed multiple opportunities to apprehend him.

The Tasmanian government has ordered an independent investigation into how the Tasmanian Health Service, Department of Health and other relevant government agencies handled allegations about Griffin. That Commission of Inquiry is expected to start next month.

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But Keelie McMahon, who alleges Griffin first abused her when she was 14, says a national review of what took place in Tasmania is needed.

"I think now knowing the Australian Federal Police knew about this, it needs to be national, there shouldn't just be Tasmania, it needs to be looked at," she said.

"If they [the AFP] knew about this and they let it slide … what else do they know about, what else are they covering up and keeping from everyone in Australia?"

Lawyer Kim Price said the deficiencies uncovered by the internal review of Tasmania Police's investigation of Griffin had horrific consequences.

"The report really only scratches the surface as to what we know and what we suspect has occurred at Launceston General Hospital," he said.

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His law firm Arnold Thomas and Beckett is representing 10 people who say they were abused by Griffin.

"Far fewer young women would have been abused — Griffin would have been, should have been, stopped really no later than 2009 and that's about 10 years before he was eventually exposed," Mr Price said.

"Almost all of our clients were unfortunately abused after 2009 and disappointingly the actions of either the hospital and or Tasmania Police have contributed to, we say, the abuse that our clients have suffered."

Angelique Knight said Griffin sexually abused her for years, starting when she was a 14-year-old patient at the Launceston General Hospital.

Last year, she tried to make a statement to Tasmania Police but was turned away because Griffin had taken his own life in October 2019.

She was distressed to learn Tasmania Police received reports about Griffin's behaviour as early as 2009.

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"I was very hurt by this. So many victims might not have been victims in that time," Ms Knight said.

"Yes, I know they said sorry, but it doesn't actually help the situation when this should have been dealt with all those years ago.

"It's easy to say 'Oh well, we're sorry' but it just makes me angry … and I just can't believe it.

"When I first found out it wasn't just me and I wasn't just special, I was a victim, I was a complete mess … I think I was in shock that this went on for so long of my life, let alone before that; I didn't see it, I didn't believe he was this monster. He fooled me and everybody," Ms Knight said.

Another victim, who does not want to be identified, said Griffin began abusing her when she was a 16-year-old patient.

She said trying to live with the abuse is harder, knowing it could have been prevented if the hospital or police had acted earlier.

"It makes me feel like everything that's happened to myself and other victims could have been avoided — they just allowed a predator to keep working in an environment and keep living a life like normal, even though he's taken so much of our lives," she said.

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"It makes me frustrated and angry and I just get so upset about it because the amount of traumas that has happened in my life as a result of his abuse, it could all have been avoided and I could have done so much more.

"I could have finished school, I could have done so much more with my life, with relationships … but it all got stolen by him and they could have stopped that. Why did the police not do anything about it?"

The LGH Community Support Group's Sallyann Geale is among those demanding full transparency from police and government in all future investigations of misconduct in public institutions.

"So that when things arise for people in the community, the departments that are meant to be serving them, are out there putting the people first," Ms Geale said.

Launceston MLC Rosemary Armitage has been contacted by many hospital staff members distressed by the latest revelations.

"I've also had contact from some doctors just generally saying that they actually have some guilt from having put some patients in the ward, and not realised what was happening," she said.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian branch secretary Emily Shepherd welcomed Police Commissioner Darren Hine's pledge to do better.

"I think that just reaffirms the need for the Commission of Inquiry so that all government agencies can work better together to ensure that children in Tasmania are protected," she said.

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