Child protection chief refuses to say who knew about sexual assault of girl in state care

The sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in state care was not flagged with the head of South Australia's child protection department until a media enquiry was made eight months later, a parliamentary committee has heard.

It was last month revealed the Minister for Child Protection, Rachel Sanderson, did not know about the sexual assault of the child until after her abuser had already been sentenced.

Matthew James McIntyre was imprisoned in September after pleading guilty to grooming the girl using the teenage dating app MyLOL, and having unlawful sexual intercourse with her in January this year.

The child became pregnant following the assault, and eventually underwent a termination.

The chief executive of South Australia's Department for Child Protection, Cathy Taylor, told State Parliament's Budget and Finance Committee that a breakdown in reporting procedures meant she, her deputy, and the department's executive director of service delivery and practice, were not told about the case.

"Each of us only became aware after a media enquiry at the time of the sentencing remarks becoming public," Ms Taylor said.

"What I can say is that in this situation, [frontline] staff did an exemplary job.

Rachel Sanderson
Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson says processes have changed to ensure ministers are informed about serious cases of abuse.(ABC News: Ben Pettitt)

The committee heard the "significant incident" should have been reported to the chief executive and the Minister, but that no disciplinary action had been taken over the failure.

Ms Taylor refused to reveal who had known about the case, and how senior those people's positions were within the department.

"While our priority focus appropriately remains on providing the young person with the necessary supports to heal from the experience, sadly the culture of blame and finger-pointing remains the default position for many in our community.

"At the end of the day, the most senior person who's ultimately accountable for this work is myself.

When asked if she had offered her resignation to Minister Sanderson, Ms Taylor said she had not.

Opposition calls for independent inquiry

Premier Steven Marshall said the case "should have had a much greater level of transparency".

"I certainly have an expectation that incidents get escalated to the highest levels," he said.

Kyam Maher
Kyam Maher wants an inquiry into the handling of the incident.(ABC News)

Shadow Attorney-General Kyam Maher said it was unacceptable that neither the Minister nor the department's chief executive had known about the case.

Mr Maher said an independent inquiry was needed to examine the circumstances surrounding the case.

"There has been a massive failure on the department, but we don't know where that failure occurred, at what level it occurred, and what's been done about it," he said.


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