AAP reports: Parents and staff of the YMCA NSW who supported Jonathan Lord were also victims of his predatory behaviour, the national inquiry into child sex abuse was told on Monday.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is looking at how the YMCA and police handled allegations against YMCA employee Lord, 26, who has been jailed for 10 years for a string of sex abuse offences against children.
The hearing in Sydney was told by Gregory Sirtes, senior counsel representing YMCA NSW, the association ‘‘acknowledges the ongoing hurt and devastation suffered as a result of Jonathan Lord’s criminal acts’’.
‘‘While the deepest sympathy extends to the children upon whom he centred his abuse, the victims of Lord’s crimes extend beyond those who were physically abused; parents and staff of the YMCA NSW who both once trusted and supported Jonathan Lord were also victims of his predatory behaviour,’’ Mr Sirtes said.
He said the YMCA had no history of child sexual abuse cover-ups, had never transferred staff against whom allegations were made and had no history of making payments to victims or of confidentially settling those claims.
‘‘That Jonathan Lord was able to infiltrate an organisation with industry-leading practices and win the trust of co-workers and parents demonstrates the critical need for the YMCA and all organisations that work with children to improve the focus on training staff to identify grooming behaviour.’’
He also said that despite its comprehensive child-protection policies the YMCA NSW acknowledges that from 2009 to 2011 its staff at Caringbah region were not appropriately trained to identify the signs of Lord’s grooming.
Earlier in the hearing Gail Furness SC for the commission had outlined how the YMCA had tried to keep a lid on what information parents received and what staff could talk about in relation to Lord citing a police direction as the reason.
Mr Sirtes said: ‘‘This is the one area in which the YMCA recognises that it let down its key stakeholders.‘‘
"The organisation now appreciates that staff and parents felt unsupported and uninformed by the YMCA as the charges against Lord began to emerge.’’
He said YMCA only received information from police at the same time as the general public and this impeded their ability to assist staff and parents.
He said there has been an overzealous interpretation of police advice to keep certain matters confidential and this resulted in the YMCA NSW having its staff sign confidentiality agreements.
‘‘In endeavouring to fully co-operate with the Police Service, the YMCA NSW caused a loss of trust with its Caringbah staff and exacerbated a difficult situation for both those staff and parents.’’
He said the result was not intentional and is regretted.