NSW - Sect children warrant invalidly executed, court told
Australian Associated Press/1999-01-31
By Margaret Scheikowski
SYDNEY, Feb 1, AAP - Unlawfully executed search warrants were used to take 72 children from their families in a dawn raid on homes belonging to a religious sect, the New South Wales Supreme Court was told today.
Michael Finnane, QC, for 57 of the children, said the police officer named on the warrants was not present at the raid on the three homes but was with others at a command post.
At a preliminary hearing which began today, Justice John Dunford is considering whether the execution of the warrants on May 15, 1992, was valid.
Through adult relations, the 57 children are suing the State of New South Wales for unspecified damages.
They claim they suffered psychological injuries as a result of the raids on the homes belonging to the Christian fundamentalist sect The Family, formerly known as Children of God.
Police and Community Services Department officers raided the homes in Glenhaven, Kellyville and Cherrybrook in Sydney's north-west, alleging the children had been, or were in danger of being, sexually and physically abused - claims The Family said were unsubstantiated.
Sixty-seven of the children were taken from their families and held for six days at juvenile detention centres.
In their court action, they claim they were held against their will thereby being illegally and unlawfully arrested and falsely imprisoned.
After the raids and the release of the children, the department launched care applications for 65 of them, a case which ran for 42 days before it was adjourned to allow a mediation process which resulted in a settlement.
The settlement involved the unconditional dropping of the cases after 12 months, as long as the sect abided by various conditions including letting the children socialise outside the group each week.
Mr Finnane had handed up to the judge various documents, including a copy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration of the United Nations on the protection and welfare of children.
The preliminary hearing is continuing.