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Detective Glenn Eddy blows lid on sickening tactics used on kids in court

Australia: One of the country’s top cops has blown the lid on tactics used by the defence on alleged child sexual abuse victims in court to “aggressively go after” them in the hope the case falls apart.

Detective Senior Constable Glenn Eddy, from the NSW Child Abuse Unit, is one of the state’s longest-serving and most experienced child abuse investigators. 

A police officer for more than 23 years, Detective Eddy has spent the last 13 years attached to the Child Abuse Unit, where he has forensically interviewed more than 450 children.

“People would be shocked if they saw what really happens in court,” Detective Eddy tells news.com.au.

“I wouldn’t want to put my own kids through it. I wouldn’t want to put any kid through it. We are feeding them to the wolves.

“The defence will try to break the child. If that doesn’t work, they will try to trick them or confuse them.

“Some judges, they expect a five-year-old to behave the same as an adult when being cross examined, and so the defence aggressively go after the child.

“It can be a total lottery dip of which judge you get on the day. Some [judges] won’t allow [certain] evidence in. So you’re asking a jury to put together a jigsaw puzzle but you’re only giving them half the piece to work out the puzzle.”

Justice shouldn’t hurt, but for children in Australia, it does. The NSW government knows how to fix this problem, but has failed to do so. That’s why news.com.au is calling for law reform to make it easier for child victims of sexual abuse to give evidenceJoin the movement and sign the petition here.

Detective Senior Constable Glenn Eddy is exposing sickening tactics used in NSW courts. Picture: Copyright news.com.au.

Detective Senior Constable Glenn Eddy is exposing sickening tactics used in NSW courts.

Explosive reports expose government shame

Two bombshell reports reveal the NSW Government has known of the problem for six years.

The reports, prepared by Detective Eddy and sent to the Government – the first in 2016, the second in 2022 – outline the underhanded tricks and “dirty tactics” he routinely sees used in court against children. 

“I have been involved in numerous trials which are usually always run the same way by the defence,” reads the 2016 report. 

“The defence delay the matter and then try to break, upset and confuse the children witnesses. 

“As an officer in the Child Abuse Squad my role is to protect children and attempt to stop and prevent abuse from continuing to occur. 

“Unfortunately, I feel responsible for subjecting children to further abuse by bringing matters before the court. 

“The abuse children are subjected to by the justice system is a disgrace. I continually witness how traumatised children are during trials/ hearings.”

Detective Glenn was the Detective on Rose Milthorpe’s case who fronted court age seven. Picture: Copyright news.com.au

Detective Glenn was the Detective on Rose Milthorpe’s case who fronted court age seven.

She and sister Pippa Milthorpe were traumatised by the NSW court system. Picture: Copyright news.com.au

She and sister Pippa Milthorpe were traumatised by the NSW court system.

Included among those children were Rose and Pippa Milthorpe – two sisters from Albury, NSW – who this week revealed their own harrowing experience of courtas part of news.com.au’s Justice Shouldn’t Hurt campaign. 

The report contains a detailed description of what happened during the trial involving Pippa, then 11, and Rose, then seven, and the process by which a third child involved in the matter got “broken” by the defence: “Iwitnessed how traumatised all the children were during the trial, especially [Child 3], who was too distraught to continue during the legal argument.

“On 28 March 2016, Child 3 was the first child witness to give evidence in the legal argument. Child 3 was cross examined in the morning.

“During the lunch break Child 3’s mother informed me that Child 3 was extremely upset and did not want to continue.

“The mother and I went and met with Child 3. Child 3 was visibly shaking and crying. 

“Her mother tried to reassure [her] that she would be OK and that she would be finished soon. Child 3 became hysterical, crying and shaking, and kept saying she would not go back into the interview room.

“It was extremely difficult to see Child 3 so upset and there was no way she could continue.

“The defence had broken Child 3 and the matters in relation to Child 3 were withdrawn by the DPP as Child 3 wouldn’t, and I believe couldn’t, continue.”

Detective Eddy urged the NSW Government to implement vital measures to safeguard children in sexual abuse trials – including expanding the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program, designed to make court less traumatic for child sexual abuse victims, to all of NSW and not just Sydney and Newcastle. 

He is speaking out in support of the sisters’ bravery and to secure change for children in the future.

Earlier this year, noting very little had changed in the past six years, Detective Eddy sent a second report to Government, also attaching his earlier version, and a cover letter which stated:

“[I have prepared this latest report] due to my ongoing frustration in the traumatic court process children are still subjected to. I want to not only highlight the ongoing trauma caused to children, but also the fact that in six years, very little has changed in most geographical areas in NSW.” 

The 2022 report includes a shocking case study involving the mistreatment of a 15-year-old girl, during a recent trial which took place in May this year. 

According to the report, the girl was sexually abused between the ages of six and 11. When she turned 13, she reported the abuse to NSW police but was forced to wait until one month before her 16th birthday for the matter to finally reach court. 

The trial occurred in NSW – a different state to where the girl now lives – causing her to travel and live interstate for the duration of the trial. Initially the trial was only scheduled to last one week, but delays created by the defence meant the girl’s evidence would be spun out over three weeks, during which time she had “limited support” overnight and on weekends. 

Rose and Pippa Milthorpe want the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program to be rolled out across all of NSW so rural kids don’t have to suffer. Picture: NewsWire / Monique Harmer

Rose and Pippa Milthorpe want the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program to be rolled out across all of NSW so rural kids don’t have to suffer. Picture: NewsWire / Monique Harmer

“Very little has changed for child victims of serious sexual or physical abuse,” reads Detective Eddy’s report, noting that Pippa and Rose Milthorpe endured similar treatment.

“Unfortunately, if a matter progresses to court, I feel responsible for subjecting children to further trauma that the court experience provides. 

“Judges, who are responsible for the welfare of the children during trials sometimes do nothing, or very little to limit the abuse.

“Sometimes the children appear more upset and traumatised after giving evidence than they do when they are interviewed and are disclosing abuse against them.

“I continually have hesitations in putting children through the court process and believe if it was my child involved, or a member or my family, I [may] suggest that they not be put through the court process.”

The Milthorpe family have also spent six years writing letters appealing to the NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman to get the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program rolled out across all of NSW so country kids don’t have to suffer. 

When approached by news.com.au, Mr Speakman recognised the trauma child sexual abuse victim-survivors go through and that court can be re-traumatising. However, he didn’t commit to extending the program to be available to rural children.

“The NSW Government continues to look to expand the program’s reach across the state. In the meantime, at courts where it is not operating, statewide measures which go some way to mitigating re-traumatisation for children,” Mr Speakman said. 

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman hasn’t committed to extending the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program to all of NSW. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman hasn’t committed to extending the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program to all of NSW. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

Roll out the program now

Detective Eddy recently joined Rose and Pippa Milthorpe on their awareness raising bike ride, and has backed their call for the program’s full expansion. 

“The [Child Sexual Offence Evidence] program should be rolled out to the whole state,” he tells news.com.au. 

“My colleagues, they are all for it. We all have a story of injustice of seeing kids be mistreated in court.

Eddy says that if the program is implemented across all of NSW, “this would mean that child victims are involved in the Criminal Justice System for a few months, instead of years, and the healing process can commence [sooner].”

Detective Eddy on a charity bike ride with the Milthorpe family who are fighting for change. Picture: Copyright news.com.au

Detective Eddy on a charity bike ride with the Milthorpe family who are fighting for change.

One of Detective Eddy’s current matters, which is scheduled to go to court March 2023, was first reported to police in February 2019, representing a four year delay for the child.

He also believes that the program and the use of witness intermediaries “would also assist a child in getting their best evidence to court”.

“[As a hypothetical] defence will ask a question like ‘what colour is the sky’ and the kid will say ‘blue’ [out of habit]. Then the defence will lead them through the events of the crime into the evening, and say ‘but the sky is black’. It’s designed to confuse and overwhelm the child.

“A witness intermediary can step in and say ‘no, what this child is saying is that the sky is generally considered blue, but you need to ask the child a direct question of what the sky looked like at the time.”

These witness intermediaries have also been highly praised by Professor Judith Cashmore who independently evaluated the program in 2017, but they are few and far between due to under funding.

Throughout the entire 13 years spent working with the NSW Child Abuse Unit, Detective Eddy has only utilised a witness intermediary twice, due to time constraints and availability. 

He says without the program’s expansion, more offenders are likely to be acquitted, and fewer parents will have faith in putting their children through the system. 

“If parents are making a rational choice to pull their children out of prosecution to protect them from being re-traumatised then the public safety is being compromised. [But] I completely understand how a parent or guardian would want to protect their child from further trauma,” he says, adding that he feels conflicted every time he refers a child to court.

“If you hung your hat on the outcome of each trial you’d lose faith very quickly and leave. But it’s about trying to keep the child safe. I’ve almost quit a number of times. One was Pippa and Rose’s case.

“But then Pip came out and said ‘thank you’ and it rejuvenated me. That’s why I’ve done it for 13 years. Not the court, not anyone else. But for the kids that say thanks. For the kids that are now safe.” 

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