Sect Boy Denied Sexual 'Fishing' Says Counsel
Sydney Morning Herald/1992-09-07
By Col Allison
A boy's denial that the Christian fundamentalist sect The Family practised a bizarre form of prostitution known as "Flirty Fishing" was not put in a record of interview with the Department of Community Services, Cobham Children's Court heard yesterday.
The department's key witness in the care application hearing involving 65 sect children, Miss Pauline Rockley, agreed with their barrister, Mr Mark Trench, that "the bits left out" of an interview typed up from handwritten notes were "very important".
She was unable to explain why this denial and other similar information in the notes of department officers' interviews with the 12-year-old boy were not in the final version.
Mr Trench said that on page seven of the handwritten notes, the boy had been asked: "Does Flirty Fishing go on now?" and had said: "No, I heard the adults were told to stop."
The notes continued: "What if you were witnessing and the person was not accepting of God in his heart. Would it be OK then to do Ffing (Flirty Fishing)?" The boy said: "No, we don't do that."
Mr Trench asked Miss Rockley: "Now I can't see any of that in the typed-up version, can you?" Miss Rockley, now in her fourth week in the witness box, replied: "No."
The department has been criticised increasingly for not taperecording interviews with children. In Parliament last week the Opposition's spokesman on family, community and disability services, Mr Ron Dyer, called for child protection interview procedures to be upgraded.
Flirty Fishing or Ffing - a form of religious prostitution allegedly sanctioned by Christ's instructions to his disciples, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men" - was introduced as a form of witnessing about 1977 by David Berg, founder of the Children of God cult from which The Family sect evolved.
Although they admit that most sect members once belonged to the Children of God, the parents attending Cobham Court claim they are born-again Christians who have thrown off the permissive ways of the past.
The department believes otherwise and is seeking State care of the children.
It insists they have been sexually abused and brainwashed against a"corrupt society" and taught to lie to the authorities to protect their isolated lifestyle. Miss Rockley, the department's Campbelltown district manager and the formal applicant for care, also agreed with Mr Trench that from her point of view it was unsatisfactory for a department interviewer to type mental notes of a long conversation with a child later into a computer.
She could not answer for the department if it was satisfactory not to take notes then type up a lengthy interview later.
The interviews were recorded in the week from May 15 when the department and the police raided three sect houses in Sydney's north-west and detained 72 children in three separate residential care units.
The children were later released after a preliminary hearing by the Cobham magistrate, Mr Ian Forsyth.
Mr Forsyth yesterday upheld applications by the the police department for a range of documents to be kept confidential in the public interest.
They included the duty books of 22 police officers, many of whom shadowed the sect family for five months. Photographs and videotape recordings of the sect's daily life were also ruled "irrelevant".
The barrister for the police, Mr Peter Johnson, argued successfully that"surveillance techniques not normally used by the police" from undisclosed listening posts and observation points also had no relevance to the care inquiry and could identify informers.
The names and addresses of a number of informants on the "register of informers" could be compromised when they had nothing to do with the sect case.