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Survivors ‘not thought-about’ by Tas health

Tasmania’s health department has been accused by the state’s ombudsman of seemingly not considering abuse survivors in its decision to withhold information relating to an alleged paedophile nurse.

The state’s ombudsman reviewed an April 2020 right to information request by journalist Camille Bianchi, which sought documents including staff complaints and email chains relating to James Geoffrey Griffin.

Griffin, who worked as a nurse at the Launceston General Hospital (LGH), took his own life in October 2019 after being charged by police with child sex offences.

Three people have launched legal action against the state’s health department, claiming they were abused by Griffin while patients at the hospital.

A royal commission-style inquiry into the state government’s responses to child sex abuse in the public service will examine the Griffin allegations and others. It is set to hold public hearings next year.

The health department identified 104 pages of information in relation to Ms Bianchi’s request but found they couldn’t be released because it was “contrary to the public interest”, Ombudsman Richard Connock wrote.

Mr Connock said there were legitimate factors in favour of exemption, including that the allegations were denied and never formally proven and criminal proceedings were unfinalised.

“The weight of these factors is reduced, however, due to the extensive publicity already given to the allegations against Mr Griffin and his death,” Mr Connock wrote.

“There are no ongoing disciplinary or criminal proceedings to be prejudiced by any disclosure.

“The harm to Mr Griffin’s reputation or interests by any disclosure considered in this application would accordingly be low, as the damage has already been done.”

Mr Connock determined many documents were not exempt from being released.

In a response to the ombudsman, contained in the review, the health department said there was significant risk of harm to Griffin’s family, friends and other associates if information was released.

The department said staff could be discouraged from reporting incidents due to concerns over disclosure via future right to information requests.

Mr Connock said the department’s consideration of the interests of staff and Griffin’s associates was understandable.

“(However), I am concerned that it does not appear to have considered the interests of the victims of Mr Griffin’s alleged offending … and the concerns of LGH patients and the general public about the adequacy of management of concerns by the department as highly,” he wrote.

“The department does not once mention or appear to consider the victims of Mr Griffin’s alleged offending or the valid community concern and desire for accountability from the department, given that abuse is alleged to have occurred against vulnerable child patients receiving care in a public hospital over an extended period.”

One of the documents relates to an “incident” involving Griffin at the LGH in 2017.

Tasmania Police in February issued a public apology over how they handled investigations into Griffin, revealing complaints were made against him in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Griffin worked at the LGH from 2000 to 2019.

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