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Police concede to 'gaps' in response to paren -

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PETER LLOYD: The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse has been told that police could have responded better in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse by a YMCA childcare worker.

Parents have told the Commission they hit a brick wall when they tried to find information about whether their children were safe or had been abused by a paedophile.

Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: Parents with children in the YMCA's childcare services south of Sydney were alarmed by allegations that a YMCA childcare worker was being investigated for assaulting children.

In early October of 2011, police received a complaint that Jonathan Lord had abused a child during a YMCA excursion.

Lord had been stood down from duty and in the days and weeks that followed, more victims came forward to police.

Parents were worried.

'AW': It's not every day that you come to the understanding that your child may have been sexually abused by someone in an institution.

EMILY BOURKE: The witness known as 'AW' told the Royal Commission today about the confusion and distress of parents who had nowhere to go to get information or advice.

'AW': There was nothing. We were told 15 days later as to how to ask questions about abuse but how can any parent sit around for 15 days and wonder and not ask their child about something that might have happened?

I mean, I understood that we weren't allowed to ask leading questions but I didn't know what those leading questions were in terms of child sex abuse. And we worried about it for some time and some sort of direction would have been good. And not just good but it was necessary. It was an emergency.

EMILY BOURKE: Detective Senior Sergeant Glyn Baker said the YMCA was "running scared". Under questioning by senior counsel assisting, Gail Furness, he explained that the YMCA had been difficult to control.

GAIL FURNESS: Now, the next sentence, "The YMCA has been difficult to control." What did that mean?

GLYN BAKER: That reference was the fact that on Thursday the 13th of October an email with a letter had gone out to in excess of 500 families. My reference at that point was: there'd been no contact with us and a letter containing incorrect information to contact Miranda detectives had gone out.

That was creating difficulties for us because we weren't involved in any of those communications. That's what I meant by "difficult to control".

EMILY BOURKE: As police conducted their investigations, the YMCA held a meeting for parents. But Detective Baker said it was something that police were reluctant to attend.

GLYN BAKER: It was in the very early stages of a serious criminal investigation. There were multiple issues that we had to manage. Those issues included serious contamination of evidence.

If we were to walk into a meeting shortly after, on the 17th, and provide Lord's name, would parents be talking to one another about children's disclosures? Would children be talking to one another about each other's disclosures? Would the versions be diluted or contaminated?

Every decision that we had to make at that early stage in the investigation was to advance the criminal investigation.

EMILY BOURKE: Earlier this week, parents of victims told the Royal Commission that they were critical of the way police responded.

Detective Superintendent Maria Rustja is the commander of the child abuse squad in the New South Wales Police.

MARIA RUSTJA: It is clear that whilst we had the hotline set up, there was confusion in the community about who to ring and how to get the information. That is clear, and we have already put something together which we think may assist the Commission and assist more importantly, though, assist the families in these circumstances in the future about the hotline - this point of contact.

EMILY BOURKE: Detective Rustja defended the police protocol of interviewing child victims without their parents in the room. But she conceded that police are supposed to tell the parents about the content of those interviews.

MARIA RUSTJA: I'm certainly not going to defend or deny what this lady experienced because it would be totally traumatic. What I can say is, and be very comfortable in saying is: we do tell the parents what happened to their child.

GAIL FURNESS: Well, in the event that this parent didn't know, her not being told was contrary to police procedures. Is that right?

MARIA RUSTJA: That's right.

PETER LLOYD: That's Detective Superintendant Maria Rustja, commander of the child abuse squad in the New South Wales Police Force, under questioning by Gail Furness SC at the Royal Commission. Emily Bourke with that report.