AFL CHILD PROTECTION POLICY BREACHED

For those who believe and trust absolutely in the VPOL and AFL investigations into the St Kilda Football Players conduct is there any explanation for the AFL so readily ignoring their own policies, brought into being in 2009 and enshrined in Section 5.1 of the AFL Member Protection Policy:

“Sexual abuse by adults or other children where a child is
encouraged or forced to watch or engage in sexual activity or where
a child is subject to any other inappropriate conduct of a sexual
nature (e.g. sexual intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, pornography
including child pornography or inappropriate touching or
conversations)”

There are other policies re: victimisation and bullying not to mention unbecoming conduct and conduct which would tend to bring the game into disrepute.

If group sex with a girl of 16 years of age and other behaviour such as taunting, victimisation and harrassment doesn’t answer that description I really don’t know what would.


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12 Responses to AFL CHILD PROTECTION POLICY BREACHED

  1. a) Do we have proof of this group sex or more to the point that the group sex was unwanted?
    b) That same policy which you speak has not only “rules” (for want of a better term about the quote you have above) but “actions” (again, for want of a better/maybe more correct term) if someone is considered to have breached those “rules”. They are stated (well in the 2006 version of the policy, I can’t find the one that has 5.1 as the clause/section for this policy) as follows:

    “All allegations of child abuse will be dealt with by the AFL promptly, seriously, sensitively and
    confidentially by reporting any allegation of child abuse to the police or relevant government
    agency. The AFL will not attempt to mediate or conduct any hearing any allegation of child abuse
    – the AFL will report any allegation of child abuse to the police or relevant government agency. A
    person will not be victimised for reporting an allegation of child abuse and the privacy of all
    persons concerned will be respected.”
    (http://www.afl.com.au/Portals/0/afl_docs/afl_hq/Policies/MemberProtectionPolicy_2006.pdf Section 7.1)

    So as you can see, the AFL should have and (whether they did or it just did end up with the police) it was looked into by the police and no crime was seen to have happened. So I not sure under this policy what the AFL have done against it? It does sound like a nice way to get the AFL on this, but it seems that in fact the policy was followed to its very letter (unless I am missing something).

    I have to admit to not having read all the many pieces you have written on this subject, but as a lawyer, would love to here your legal investigation/thoughts on what course of action the players could have against the AFL if the AFL took action with out any hard evidence of any wrong doings. Could the players sue and expect to win if the AFL suspended them with them doing nothing wrong (I don’t want you to say they have done something wrong, but assume like you are defending them and you can prove or disprove they did nothing illegal or against the AFL rules). I think it would be an interesting piece and I dare say it might show why the AFL has to be careful with the course of actions they take in these type of incidents.

    JMTC

  2. pacelegal says:

    Phillip Molly Malone,

    My understanding based on the reports are that the School Principal reported the matter to Police, therefore whether or not the AFL reported the incident to the Police is irrelevant. The Police were seized of the matter.

    If an individual or organisation breaches a provision of the Policy there are any number of things which may flow from that. Mediation may take place to mediate a complaint. There are other forms of discipline available such as apologies, monetary fines, suspension, de-registration or termination of employment.

    What course of action could the AFL have taken?

    The AFL did say they conducted their own investigation, and I recall asking you whether you had further knowledge of their internal deliberative processes. However I don’t believe the investigations or their methods are very transparent.

    I think there is sufficient enough evidence to prove that sex occurred between a player and a girl under 18 years of age. They became aware of it at some point in time, and did not take ANY action which was open to them to take under their Policy.

  3. pacelegal says:

    Put it this way Clubs and organisations have complaint handling procedures where disciplinary actions can be taken against them which is handled in accordance with natural justice procedures and established procedures. There is nothing mysterious about grievance processes however we have no idea of the specifics of how the girl’s complaint was handled.

    For instance we know that with respect to the AFL Coaches Code of Conduct there are procedures for a complaint, a response, a formal hearing before a Panel, a finding, appeals processes etc. However we do not know HOW or whether those investigations are indeed conducted fairly

    If you do have any information I’d be glad for you to enlighten me in terms of how the girl was treated.

    If you think that all internal investigations are conducted fairly then so be it.

  4. pacelegal says:

    If the manner in which Lara Bingles’ Lawyers’ complaint was dealt with is any guide to the sensitivity and fairness of the AFL’s nvestigative process, then it isn’t inspiring.

    There is always a conflict of interest involved in any internal investigation. In Bingle’s case the AFL effectively refused to accept her complaint and then her Lawyer’s complaint before they started to investigate…lol…That doesn’t seem to comply with the principles of natural justice including:-

    1. audi alteram partem (the right to be heard)
    2. the rule against bias

    Bingle’s lawyers were appalled with the way the AFL handled the investigation AFL investigation of Brendan Fevola and called for an independent body or organisation to deal with it.

  5. I have to admitt not fully remembering how the bingle case played out but didn’t the AFL request to interview bingle about her complaint and she refused. Now that’s her rightt weakens the power of the AFL to investigate.

    As to your original point, the matter went through the procedure and the police found no criminal issue. As this was, as far as I can tell, consensual sex among people of legal age (until evidence is shown other wise, in which case it should go back to the police) I don’t see what the AFL can do with out risk of law suites and having to play moral police on all issues. I mean if they act here do they have to act if a player cheats on his wife too?

  6. pacelegal says:

    You might like to read the details here as a few good points are made:

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sunday-telegraph/lara-bingle-lawyers-respond-to-afl/story-e6frewt0-1225840396422

    Re: Your comment about the AFL investigation of the St Kilda Football.

    When things that are morally suspect it is a very difficult question as to how far you can go into a person’s private life before they can be sued. However they could equally be sued for not acting, and vicariously liable for allowing this misbehaviour.

    They also have a duty to investigate when they think their players have done something not criminally legal but which brings the sport into disrepute or is not able to be prosecuted due to a lack of evidence to a criminal standard (ie beyond reasonable doubt) compared to a civil other other standard.

    I will give you an example of personal behaviour which was criminal in nature, namely commmitting acts of sexual assault and indecency upon his step-daughters in his legal office. You would have to say this was disgraceful and unprofessional. He was a Lawyer and he was sanctioned by the criminal law yet is still practising law. There are plenty of cases where Doctors, Lawyers and other professionals have committed offences don’t have privileges removed from their licensing body.

    Once again, there is a conflict of interest, like the AFL, they are industry advocates, have a monopoly over it, and are responsible for disciplining professionals. They serve the public ‘by protecting the public’ at the same time as making a profit for themselves, clearly things which should be balanced against one another. Are they really protecting the public?

    Would you like your daughter to go to a GP who has on several occasions molested several women patients, went to a criminal court and pleaded insanity, and then got back on the register? He is on record as having no remorse for what he did. Whilst seeking treatment and having been deemed to recover by forensic psychiatrists from his obsessive compulsive disorder to touch women cured, he continues to assault women patients after receiving treatment. He is a repeat offender and continuing to practice.

    It makes the AFL violations seem tame by comparison, but I am trying to make a point that industry self regulation has an inherent problem in it. There is an inherent conflict of interest. People have suggested for instance that certain organisations should be separated into separate entities, one being a labor union like entity which would represent the professionals and another one which would represent the businesses that hire lawyers, and a third for carrying out disciplinary functions for both.

  7. Maybe I am being too literal but isn’t there huge differences?
    Wouldn’t this to be on par with the doctor example that the players had sex with the girl while the game was on? In that case absolutely would the AFL be remiss not too act!
    Are we all beating around the bush on this issue in that the thing that most have issues with is that the guys were over 19 and the girl is under 18? Should people be working on the government to change the age of consent to 18?

  8. pacelegal says:

    Phillip Molly Malone

    I don’t want to sound a bit dippy but I think you might be taking the public/private dichotomy a little too far!

    In any event I am sure that if the players had sex with the girl while the game was on the fans would have been remiss not to act let alone the AFL.

    That kind of image didn’t really occur to me I must admit.

    However I’ll indulge it. I think you might be saying that the really offensive act (which we all know wasn’t the photos), were the series of acts that took place off the field in the privacy of the player/s home, even if it was “during season” so to speak, it was “off the field”.

    Making distinctions such as this is silly.

    Should it matter whether the act took place in private or public or in the course of a person’s profession or ‘calling’ (priest, footy player)?

    In fact the Lawyer was sitting in his legal practice when the said acts of incest occurred, however made the argument that he wasn’t actually giving legal advice and therefore couldn’t be said to be acting in the course of legal practice.

    If you are wanting to make such fine distinctions then I think you are on the wrong side of history.

    I think there is far too much emphasis placed on the issue of consent, and understand the reason for this, namely the criminal charge. It is a matter of respect and responsibility. This girl was treated like trash.

    There has been a lot of blame shifting, name calling, finger pointing and stereotypical victimising of women who have been treated poorly.

    Leave all legalities aside and consider that this is the most appalling incident of VATICAN like scapegoating. For the club to malign this girl as they have at the official level, after the suffering she has gone through and treat her as a pariah is morally reprehensible.

    It rubs salt into the wounds of all women, whether 16 or 60 who have been betrayed by football celebrities, officials or police and other authority figures.

    The sheer number of hateful and insulting remarks and the hatred spewed by fans, incited by officials, is beyond any excuse imaginable all done in the name of damage control.

    As Derryn quite rightly said:

    “a lot of this comes down ‘he says, she says’ but one irrefutable fact remains: A 16-year-old schoolgirl’s encounter with two St. Kilda football players after an AFL-sanctioned school clinic ended up with her becoming pregnant to one of those football ambassadors. Nude photos and videos aside, that is what this story has always been about.”

    She got pregnant after dating him, and was then jilted by him when he cried and she was unceremoniously dumped and treated like a community joke.

    If you don’t think that it is appropriate for the AFL to confront the patriarchal culture that says it is okay by us mate if you have engage in one on one or group sex with a minor then I don’t know what more to say. Be compliant, even if it means silencing her by further exposing her to psychological stress after she has suffered a recent grief reaction. Defend the constitutional rights of your footy heroes not to have their penises exposed to the world. Watch the officials do this and note that there is no tone whatsoever of regret for what happened.

    Not a solitary attempt to hold football players accountable for their sexual and other conduct that harms and damages and indeed in this girls’ case, brought her to the brink of suicide. Protect their privilege to use and abuse women for their sexual gratification regardless of the harm it causes. Let a 16 year old female call be the scapegoat.

    Applaud them for their solidarity and camaraderie and for their pledge to make up for it on the footy field this year by training hard and forgiving one another.

    Let the family friendly credentials of ALL players be called into question when they attend school functions to save a couple of players from the condemnation they deserve. Where there is silence the AFL and St Kilda Football club become complicit.

    Remember that this is a culture that has had to introduce a respect and responsibility program because in Andrew Demetriou’s own words there have been too many cover ups of sexual abuse and degradation of women in the past. He vowed, publicly I might add, that it would cease on his watch.

    The AFL have form, in terms of accusations of sexual abuse and mistreatment of women, but it is no longer now just form. It is now currently condoned shabby treatment which will prevent all women from stepping forward.

    Why? They will be subjected to thuggery and public humiliation.

  9. So if this is just poor treatment of a girl because they dumped her and possibly questioned if they were the father (isn’t that the main issues, I mean vale references have been made to group sex and one mention of possible unwanted sex (which if happened, should be looked at by the police)) and you believe this is enough to mean the AFL has to act (i.e. because of poor girl/women treatment) then does it also go that if the case was a 30 year old footballer cheating on his 31 year old wife and possibly leaving her with kids, are you saying that the AFL should act on this as well?

    Adding in the comment about the school clinics brings back the issue did that they know her from there!

    To try to break this story now into its individual elements is impossible and its all a tangled web. This is why (and you might have a go at me for saying this but its a fact now) the girl lying about the photos being taken by her means her whole story becomes questionable. Have you heard her interviewed? When under pressure her story seems to change and she tries to protect herself. I am not saying under pressure by people attacking her, just people asking tough real questions that need to be asked.

    Also, it isn’t like the AFL have thrown this girl under the bus (so to speak). They have publicly stated that they have offered her support. Only a few people know if this did or didn’t take place.

    I think this girl (and by the way, writting “this girl” fells really cold but its the only way to refer to her when her name is suppressed) needs to want help. Needs to feel that as badly as she may have been treated or felt that she was treated, that releasing the photos was legally and morally wrong. I mean when you start to feel that everyone that is trying to help you is wrong, maybe there is a common reason for that.

    The AFL can’t win in this issue and that is why, I agree that they should offer support to the persons involved (the girl and the players) and basically ignore the media. They can’t win in the media so to quote a famous man “Can’t win, don’t try” (to win in the media).

  10. pacelegal says:

    Unfortunately the people that are privy to the evidence and information are so often tangled deep in a web out of their control and trapped in something much bigger than they are.

    They are under a lot of pressure and it is sometimes inevitable that they will lie about something like having taken photos of players in a matter unrelated to the substantial issue.

    Maloney, there is only one way you are going to be able to deal with this:-
    1. Believe that when Police don’t charge someone it means that they are not guilty of a crime
    2. Believe that any club’s investigations are beyond reproach
    3. Believe that all of the ‘he saids’ are true and all of the ‘she saids’ are untrue including the transcripts pressuring her to engage in group sex were a figment of our collective imagination
    4. Believe that the twins she lost were not Gilberts but one of the other 1 million men she had sex with because she is a promiscuous 17yo

    re: “The AFL have publicly stated they have offered her support”

    We have heard many ‘he said’ ‘she said’ reports re: the support offered. If you were made redundant and your Employer said they’d give you support getting you another job I am sure you would be curious as to what that was going to be, and whether it was satisfactory or not may be something your Managers and you might disagree on. It could the type of Microsoft support they offer for their computer products. I think the documentation would be more useful to tease these things out. That is why when people whose children die from medical negligence might want some paperwork as to what happened in the emergency rooms before they were satisfied the hospital provided adequate care.

    Re: your feeling of coldness about calling her “this girl”. Well lets just call her Cindy. As you said she is not “like Elle MacPherson”. If we want to humanise her we can call her Cindy. As to her not “wanting” or “accepting” help, how do you feel about a private corporation (chartered club) ‘care’ about you. We assume they are doing things correctly. But it might still be wrong. Care is a very subjective thing. For example what if a condition of them helping her were her signing a release that she is not going to sue them? It might be sensible and a practical solution, but may not be the type of care she wants.

    You use the word “everyone” however she has accepted has accepted ‘help’ from people, maybe not the same body you are talking about.
    I think if you asked her to accept the help of Ross Levin, the legal representative of the AFL it is very hard to judge. Putting blind trust in the advocate for the AFL wouldn’t be rational to me.

    I think in any program run by the AFL or any body that ‘helps’ people it is much more helpful to have mentors in a ‘helping’ position (eg the woman in the care and responsibility program) who has gone through similar things and gotten through it.

    It is nonsense that you can’t win in the media. If you look at all of the resources everyone talking about this issue have got, of course the body with the biggest PR machine and muscle will try to win. Without effective PR you don’t have sponsorships. Without sponsorships you can’t pay people who shuffle the papers around which means you can’t keep track of the PR people, who in turn can’t protect your interests. I am sure she’d prefer to have their PR budget and the mainstream media at her beck and call.

    The truth of that quote is more that you have low expectations and don’t become despondent when the public don’t see things your way.

  11. Casey Hribar says:

    After having read her blog that was deleted. I think I’m of the opinion that no one has the guts to publish the truth because of the power structures involved are so legally entrenched and the media has so many conflicts of interest

    This just isn’t going to see the light of day in anything but blogs. There’s too many vested interests and conflicts of interest that would prevent something as far reaching as this being brought to the light of day in a timely fashion.

    I’ve said before how this sport is not just a national, but an international money making PR f**king machine. Forget the photos, forget anything else, it’s actually about the story she has to tell that’s actually what’s important, about the organisations she’s listed and about exposing them through the narrative of the experiences she went through involving not just the players or the AFL but the police and the media as well and their collusion to keep this story as badly covered as possible.

    She’s literally going to have to write it as a book and change names for legal reasons at the best. No news organisation is going to publish what she wants to, and needs to talk about, in the time it would take for the truth of this to come out and for her side to even be heard let alone understood or given a fair hearing.

    This is why it is actually more important for her to get her story out there rather than any photos or video footage, it’s actually irrelevant. I now remember why I’m a nihilist.

  12. admin says:

    Malone,

    Even on the most favourable version of events to the players, and presuming she told them she was old enough, at SOME STAGE players became aware of her real age and continued to engage in sexual relations with her.

    Furthermore, they encouraged and pressured her in written transcripts to bring friends along (no questions as to age) to partake in group sex which was something she was reluctant to do.

    You can’t seriously suggest that the players hadn’t breached the policy, leaving aside all of the other aspects of it merely in having sexual relations with her or continuing to do so after becoming aware of her true age.

    In any event licensees can be held liable for supplying liquor to a minor or other services and have to scrutinise any information supplied to them.

    It is a good argument for making AFL players subject to checks which wuold apply to all people working with children when conducting their AFL sanctioned duties. Surely the AFL could set up some kind of verification system for players when they conduct their off field activities, particularly where the kudos they gain from their on field activiities may lead to a rendezvous with a minor they had first come into contact with at an earlier meeting.

    The concept is to make it safe for minors. That requires measures to be taken to ensure that happens. Isn’t that all that is important?

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