Child protection tightened

Steven Larkins' case could see changes to child protection laws.
Steven Larkins' case could see changes to child protection laws.

THE state government has flagged it may further tighten child protection laws, on top of changes it is making after a Royal Commission threw the spotlight on systemic failings surrounding former Scout leader and paedophile Steven Larkins.

A bill containing initial changes, including a requirement for those in charge of organisations that deal with children to undergo child protection screening, passed the state's Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

Family and Community Services minister Brad Hazzard told Parliament a broader review would be held over the next six to 12 months, to ensure all aspects of the state's child protections measures were considered.

It follows the case of paedophile Steven Larkins, which the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse examined to determine how he managed to operate unchecked for almost 15 years, first as a Scout leader and then as the head of Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services.

It heard Larkins manipulated the system to avoid a working-with-children check, by claiming he did not work directly with young people.

At the time of Larkins' arrest for child pornography charges in 2011, he was caring for a young person in out-of-home care in his own home. The Children's Court had also granted Larkins parental responsibility for a number of children and young people.

He was jailed in 2012 for the indecent assault of two boys and the possession of child pornography.

Mr Hazzard said the legislation would ban 'principal officers' of non-government agencies from caring for children from their own agency at home, in most circumstances.

The Court would also be blocked from granting them parental responsibility, or from granting it to an organisation.

The government is also seeking to remove the right of review for people convicted of certain offences who are refused clearance to work with children by the Children's Guardian. That would cover adults convicted of murder and a range of serious sexual offences, including certain sexual offences against children.

Labor said it should extend the changes to cover more offences.