Mr Heffernan: I want to go to an issue that has been raised with me about a medico legal report writer, Dr Christopher Rikard-Bell, who told ABC National in June 2015 that he has written over 2,000 reports in his 25 year career. These were to assist the court. He said he is often called by the court to assess allegations of physical and sexual abuse. But he then went on to say that he is not specifically trained in child sexual abuse and/or assessments. As I understand it, evidence rules require specialised knowledge by training, skill or experience. His internet public profiles for clinical work do not reflect specialisation in child sexual abuse assessments. Contrary to accepted research, this particular gentleman believes 90 per cent of Family Court child sexual abuse cases are unfounded. This confirmation bias is reflected in his practice of asking a child, in front of the alleged perpetrator, about any worries or fears concerning that parent. I think that is barmy. This is cruel and contrary to accepted clinical practice.
Dr Rikard-Bell nominated Richard Gardner as a role model, and as very relevant. The Family Court publicly decried the parent alienation theory that Gardner invented when he relabelled child sexual abuse symptoms as signs of a mother alienating a father from a child for no good reason. Gardner said:
… the child has to be helped to appreciate that we have in our society an exaggeratedly punitive and moralistic attitude about adult-child sexual encounters.
Older children may be helped to appreciate that sexual encounters between an adult and a child are not universally considered to be reprehensible acts. The child might be told about other societies in which such behavior was and is considered normal.
My God, this reminds me of Justice Garry Neilson. Gardner continues:
The child might be helped to appreciate the wisdom of Shakespeare's Hamlet, who said, "Nothing's either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
If the Family Court is going to rely on Dr Rikard-Bell's opinion to assess child sexual abuse, and his opinions are not based on specialised knowledge and are clearly out of step with research, how can this be in the child's best interests?
Mr Bill Heffernan 9 Feb 2016
|Said by||Mr Bill Heffernan|
|Topic||Dr Christopher Rikard-Bell|
|9 Feb 2016||Source||Senate Estimates Legal Affairs 9 Feb 2016|
|18 Oct 2016||Response||Lawyers, judges etc need to ensure that report writers follow the standards set by the Family Court|