Abused as a child, with an angry message to Australia
SHY Keenan (corr) doesn’t like to call herself a victim nor does she like the term survivor. Both imply a resolution to an issue.
But from the age of four she was systematically raped, beaten, degraded, filmed then, at the age of 10, sold to a gang of dockworkers in the UK for four more years of abuse.
In 2000 more than 25 years after the abuse, she armed herself with a small camera lent by the BBC and filmed one of her attackers boasting about his actions. Two years later she watched in satisfaction from the back of Liverpool Crown Court as three of her attackers, including a stepfather, were handed jail terms.
She has since become an internationally admired advocate for Phoenix Survivors, an advocacy group fighting for the rights of children and campaigning to have British law changes to better protect the young.
One law that’s at the top of her list is the one that allows Australia to continually deport child sex offenders to the UK despite the perpetrators having spent most of their lives in Australia.
In the past 12 months more than a dozen paedophiles have been sent to Britain from Australia, most have been aged in their 60s, and have spent all their lives in Australia having migrated as babies or toddlers.
“That’s not fair Australia!” she declared yesterday from her home in south England.
“The first person we should put at the head of the game here is the child, the one they have harmed or the one they could harm. In terms of managing such individuals or helping them manage themselves there is one golden rule - they will, because they can.
“You can’t do anything about the fact they want to and you can’t do anything about the fact that they will but what you can do is about whether they can. In this country we put tonnes of things in their way and we insist, because we know they won’t manage themselves, that we manage one half and they the other half.
“That’s essentially the deal we have at the moment. When you pluck someone out of a completely different country and plonk them here, you set the entire system against them in terms of nothing here will necessarily work for them. They don’t have family or other support networks to help them manage their own behaviour. They don’t have anything. They literally have been plonked into a foreign country so you are basically setting them up to re-offend on a child by doing this. When you pluck them in this way and plonk them in an alien environment it puts them at risk.
“In law, they do belong here, in essence they are British citizens whether they are morally or ethically British is another argument. In law Australia has now found a way to kick them back to us but I don’t know if ethically it’s the right thing because they are stacking it against because the system here is limited in what it can do with spent offenders.
Under Australian law, a person can be deported no matter how long they have lived in the country if they continue to hold a passport from another nation.
In Britain there has been a significant public backlash this year to the “colonial rule” which has allowed notorious Australian paedophiles such as Raymond Horne and Gerard Little to be sent to London. The British Government estimate watching and housing each individual, because they are technically foreigners in their native country, costs $100,000 a year each. In Britain, welfare groups want the Rudd Government to change the laws. It not just Australian paedophiles either, there are other sexual criminals who get deported only to then go on and reoffend.
Kennan says: “Once you’ve done your thing (crime) and there are say a dozens court imposed restrictions for him on his release, in Australia if he baulks any of those, you can go after him. The moment he steps into this country we have no legal ability to deploy any of those restrictions. The minute he steps into this country he is in a different jurisdiction and your laws and restrictions no longer apply.
“They will be assessed when they come here to Britain and made to sign the Sex Offenders Register but beyond that there is very little they can do. In Australia if there is a restriction not to be around children or if there is a restriction not to go on the Internet they can be pursued but not here. That’s why I don’t think Australia is doing the ethical thing. They can be housed here and monitored but that’s it. Their slate is effectively wiped clean. If you are a serious offender, high risk of re-offending, you get visited once a month, a medium risk offender you get visited once every three months and if you are deemed low risk of re-offending then you get visited just once a year.
“It ties our hands on what we can do. We are intrinsically connected to Australia and it seems what needs to be put in place is a low where court conditions can be transferred over. If you have someone sentenced to life for an offence and he serves 10 years then basically for the rest of his life he effectively under a state control so if he steps out of line once you can nail his arse. That’s stops the minute you send them (offenders) over. All of that stops.
Whether they reoffend is another argument but it’s about what happens when they do. There needs to be a law change, there needs to be some form of interconnection with limitations you (Australia) out on them and translating them to Britain so when they do come here we have some power to act on what you have already identified as dangerous paedophiles. Our Attorney Generals need to talk. A law change would work for all of us because obviously we send some (offenders) your way too.
“There is very little we can do until he hurts another child ... we know there is a child out there but just because we can’t give them a name and identification right now doesn’t mean they don’t exist, they do and will have to be harmed before this country can do anything about it.
“Yes it is frustrating and yes it’s upsetting to me but its devastating to the children that these people are now being exposed to.”
Shy, nicknamed during her years of abuse because of the bashful poses she struck in photographs as a youth, is neither a victim nor a survivor but calls herself a Phoenix - “a work in progress” - looking to help others either through her advocacy or book simply titled “Broken” - A state of mind and law she is now trying to fix. It’s working. The British Government is reviewing the issue.
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