By Jano Gibson - ABC News - 26.09.2023 - [AUSTRALIA] - [Peter Renshaw]
Tasmania's child abuse inquiry has delivered scathing findings against the former head of medical services at the Launceston General Hospital over his handling of allegations against a notorious paedophile nurse and other medical personnel.
The commission of inquiry's final report into the Tasmanian government's responses to child sexual abuse was tabled in parliament on Tuesday. The commission has made 75 findings and 191 recommendations designed to protect young people from abuse.
While most of the findings relate to institutions, it made five specific findings against Peter Renshaw, including misconduct.
"Dr Renshaw's omissions and fabrications amount to misleading our Commission of Inquiry," it stated. "We do not make this finding lightly. The commission described Dr Renshaw as an "unhelpful witness" who was "defensive and pedantic" during his appearance before the commission. "Each of the concessions he made, once confronted by the evidence, had to be extracted from him during hearings," it stated.
"We consider that Dr Renshaw failed to accept responsibility for his failures. The commission said this "frustrated" victim-survivors and their families, who were seeking acknowledgement, reflection and apologies. Failure to comply with mandatory reporting obligations One of the findings against Dr Renshaw related to a failure to comply with the hospital's protocol for the reporting and management of suspected child abuse.
This related to allegations made by 11-year-old Zoe Duncan in 2001 in relation to a doctor, who the commission has referred to by the pseudonym "Dr Tim".
The initial allegations were that Dr Tim had given Zoe a hug, kissed her hand, and said that she was a pretty girl and that if she was older he would marry her.
But despite being informed of the allegations, the commission said Dr Renshaw did not follow the protocols in place at the time.
"We consider that Dr Renshaw's failure to comply with the protocol — by failing to immediately alert the paediatric registrar of Zoe's allegations, his failure to discuss reporting to Child Safety Services with a senior colleague, and his subsequent interview of Zoe — may have contributed to delaying Zoe's disclosure of more serious allegations against Dr Tim, including that he had raped her."
The commission found Dr Renshaw's failure to comply with mandatory reporting obligations in a timely manner also "had an adverse impact on later investigations". Renshaw 'misled' superiors It also found Dr Renshaw misled the hospital's CEO and Health Department secretary about information he had received from police relating to allegations against former nurse James Geoffrey Griffin.
Griffin, who committed suicide in 2019, had worked on the hospital's children's ward for 18 years before he was charged with child sexual abuse offences.
"We find that Dr Renshaw misled [the chief executive and secretary] by failing to convey information fully and accurately to them about the police briefing on 31 July 2019," the commission stated.
"Dr Renshaw's initial briefing, which position Mr Griffin's offending as occurring entirely outside the hospital setting, set the tone for subsequent briefings to the secretary." The commission said Dr Renshaw also should have "escalated and acted" on separate allegations against Griffin when he was advised on them later that year. It also found he misled the department's secretary about Griffin, including in a minute sent in November 2019 that failed to note the nurse's long employment record at the hospital as well as an "extensive complaints history".
"We consider the wording of what was included, combined with what was excluded, to have been calculated to give the impression to the secretary that the hospital was not implicated in Mr Griffin's conduct," the commission stated.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.