Witnesses Line up for Sex Abuse Hearing
September 16, 2013
A Scout leader who had supposedly been "stepped down" from contact with minors, turned up at a Gold Coast theme park with around 10 children in tow, all wearing Scouts uniform, a child abuse royal commission has heard.
It was for this reason, former Scout leader Armand Hoitink said he resigned from Scouts Australia.
Steve 'Skip' Larkins was jailed in 2012 for possessing child pornography, forging documents and indecent assault.
On Monday the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began public hearings in Sydney into how Larkins ended up having parental responsibility for 19 Aboriginal children in a Hunter foster care service, despite earlier complaints being made against him.
Mr Hoitink told the commission he had been reporting complaints about Larkins to senior Scouts leaders since the early 1990s.
It was "common knowledge" there was a problem with Larkins, he said, with stories circulating of him cavorting with children in the showers and offering children lollies at a public swimming pool.
"He's the reason I left the Scouts," Mr Hoitink said.
He told the commission he reported his concerns to then district Scout commissioner, Mr Bill Metcalfe, but this didn't stop Larkins from having access to boy Scouts.
Mr Hoitink said it was after he saw Larkins at a Scout Jamboree at Sea World in 1998 that he resigned.
Mr Hoitink told the commission, Mr Metcalfe had said Larkins could not be kicked out because he was Aboriginal, but Mr Metcalfe said he had no recollection of this conversation.
Counsel for Scouts Australia Greg James QC pressed Mr Hoitink on his recollections, pointing out he did not resign until 1999, almost a year after the Jamboree.
Mr Hoitink said he reported Larkins to Mayfield police, in the NSW Hunter region, for soliciting kids with sweets at a pool.
He denied receiving a letter in April 1997 from Scouts Australia telling him Larkins had been removed from having contact with children.
"But that did not happen because he was there at Jamboree," Mr Hoitink said.
Mr Metcalfe told the commission he had known Larkins since he (Larkins) was a boy and that complaints about him, to do with money-handling, began when he was a member of the Stockton Scouts in 1994.
Mr Metcalfe said Larkins was stood down after complaints of a boy being upset after an encounter with Larkins.
Mr Metcalfe told counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC, Larkins moved to another Scout area, where the group leader knew of the complaints after they were divulged at an area meeting.
Mr Allan Currie was regional commissioner administration in the Hunter region at that time and has held voluntary positions with Scouts in NSW since 1982, as well as various positions on the Scouts NSW executive committee.
Mr Currie said before February 1997 he had not heard any rumours about Larkins.
In July 1997 he did ask for a police check on Larkins, after receiving anonymous phone calls.
He said he remembered a call from Constable Nigel Turney, who asked if Larkins had been suspended, although he said he did not ask why Constable Turney wanted to know.
He did not remember being told there was a child abuse complaint about Larkins.
When asked about what he did to communicate that Larkins was on a warning, he said: "It would have been word of mouth at our regular ... meetings."
Mr Currie said he did not remember seeing Larkins at the Jamboree, but if it happened it would have been in breach of the 'no contact with children' order.
Earlier the commission heard from two victims who had been sexually assaulted by Larkins when they were Scouts and from the mother of one victim.
One witness, known as AA, told of the ongoing impact of being assaulted by Larkins when he was 12, an experience he did not speak about until he was 20.
"I would burst into tears for no reason," he said.
Another witness told how Larkins said he was taking a group camping, but instead took them to his home where Larkins shared a mattress on the floor with them.
The witness said in a statement Larkins sexually assaulted him.
"After that things were really bad at home. I was angry and would lash out at anything. That really affected my mum and she cried a lot trying to find out what the problem was."