Sydney Morning Herald: Seizure of sect children ruled unlawful

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Seizure of sect children ruled unlawful

Sydney Morning Herald/1999-04-01

Police acted lawlessly when they raided houses belonging to the Children of God sect in 1992 and seized nearly 60 girls and boys from their homes in the early morning.

The NSW Supreme Court found the children were entitled to seek damages from the NSW Government because search warrants used in the raids were worthless.

Justice John Dunford ruled the officer named on the warrants, Sergeant Gregory Sullivan, was required to attend the raids, but had never left Castle Hill police station.

"Being in a radio control room in touch with the people who were at the premises is not in my view taking part in the execution," Justice Dunford said.

As a result, police and community services were trespassing when they broke into the homes in Cherrybrook, Kellyville and Glenhaven and "rounded up" 57 children, aged between 22 months and 16, on May 15, 1992.

Outside the court, solicitor Mr Greg Walsh called on the Attorney-General, Mr Shaw, to settle the case immediately, saying the children had been through enough.

"They were branded when they were taken as having been sexually abused, each and every one of them. That's something which is ringing in their ears today as it was then, and they want the matter resolved and they want justice to take place," he said.

Many of the children continued to wet their beds, have nightmares and live in fear the incident could happen again, he said.

The issue remains complex, with several matters still to be examined in Supreme Court proceedings, but the verdict on the raids was final, Mr Walsh said.

One of the children, now 16 but nine when the raid occurred, said outside court he and the other boys and girls had been told they were going on a three-day holiday and that the officers were friends of their parents. "We could not speak to our parents," the boy said.

Police and DOCS officers involved in the raids claimed the children were being physically and sexually abused by the sect, formerly known as the Children of God, now called The Family.

The sect, a fundamentalist Christian group, denied the allegations.

The children argued in court they were illegally and unlawfully arrested and falsely imprisoned.

During the raids they were told they were going on a trip, but were instead taken to State institutions where they were detained for six days until court proceedings ruled they could return home.

Judge Dunford will now deal with damages at a date to be fixed.