Sydney Morning Herald: Testimony Against Sect Tainted, Court Told

From XFamily - Children of God

Testimony Against Sect Tainted, Court Told

Sydney Morning Herald/1992-08-28


The testimony of Miss Pauline Rockley, the key witness in the care case involving 65 children of the religious sect, The Family, was "tainted by value judgments and non-consideration of the evidence", the Cobham Childrens Court was told yesterday.

The assessment of 10 days of evidence by Miss Rockley, who is the Department of Community Services' Campbelltown district manager and co-ordinator of the case, was made by a barrister for some of the sect parents, Mr Robert Cavanagh.

He had applied unsuccessfully to the magistrate, Mr Ian Forsyth, for an end to her evidence and her replacement in the witness box by the acting director-general of the department, Mr David Marchant.

Mr Forsyth said that although there were "gaps and loose threads" in Miss Rockley's testimony, the remaining 75 Crown witnesses might well "fill in these gaps".

He left it open for Mr Cavanagh to raise the application again later.

Miss Rockley is the formal applicant in the hearing and helped the police co-ordinate the raids on three community houses of the sect in The Hills district in May.

In the dawn swoop by 30 officials, in which some house doors were kicked in, 72 children aged from three to 16 were seized and taken to detention centres before being released temporarily a week later by Mr Forsyth after an emotional preliminary hearing.

The department claims 65 sect children have been sexually and psychologically abused and are in need of State care.

But under relentless crossexamination, Miss Rockley has revealed that the allegations are based on literature from the Children of God sect - to which some members once belonged - found by police during the raids, and claims of ex-members.

The barrister for the children, Mr Mark Trench, who has extracted several key concessions from Miss Rockley, has described the former members as"disgruntled people" who have tried to "set up" parents of the fundamentalist religious group who claim to be missionaries.

For the past two days, Miss Rockley - who has broken down twice under cross-examination - has given evidence about a confidential NSW Police Service document entitled "Children of God - Project A".

Compiled by the Organised Crime Section of the Police Task Force Group, the paper sets out 32 alleged practices of the Children of God, which the police and the department claim went underground "about 1978" and emerged as The Family.

The document was a point of discussion on the evening of May 14 when senior departmental executives, including Miss Rockley, and the police were deciding if and when to raid the sect houses.

The case continues.