Herald Sun

No fears for Darcey

I’d do noth­ing dif­fer­ent, doc­tor tells in­quest

- AN­GUS THOMPSON

A DOC­TOR who did not act on fears Darcey Free­man was at risk says that, look­ing back af­ter her mur­der, he would have done noth­ing dif­fer­ently.

Darcey, 4, was thrown to her death from the West Gate Bridge by her fa­ther, Arthur, on Jan­uary 29, 2009. He is serv­ing life for her mur­der.

Doc­tors are re­quired to in­form child pro­tec­tion ser­vices if they rea­son­ably be­lieve a child is at sig­nif­i­cant risk of phys­i­cal or sex­ual abuse from which their par­ents can­not pro­tect them.

An in­quest has heard Darcey’s mother, Peta Barnes, told Dr Ian Schap­kaitz of her ex­hus­band’s vi­o­lent be­hav­iour less than two months ear­lier.

Sergeant Sharon Wade, as­sist­ing the State Coro­ner, Judge Ian Gray, read out a July 2013 state­ment by Dr Schap­kaitz, in which he said Ms Barnes’s dis­clo­sures did not meet the thresh­old for him to make a manda­tory re­port. He had no rea­son to be­lieve her chil­dren were at “im­mi­nent risk”.

He said Ms Barnes told him she was dis­cussing her fears with her lawyer, and he ad­vised her to con­tinue this.

He claimed he later phoned her to see how she was go­ing but never re­ceived a re­sponse.

“In hind­sight, I would not do any­thing dif­fer­ent,” he said.

He said Free­man had been calm in deal­ing with his chil­dren when they mis­be­haved at the clinic. He was in no way con­cerned Free­man would be vi­o­lent to­wards them, and there­fore had “no rea­son­able grounds” to make a re­port.

The as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Child Pro­tec­tion Unit at the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, Beth Allen, said it was un­clear whether Dr Schap­kaitz had sought fur­ther in­for­ma­tion from Ms Barnes.

She said the thresh­old for manda­tory re­port­ing should not be low­ered be­cause the unit would be in­un­dated, say­ing: “We don’t want to re­move chil­dren from par­ents as a re­sult of low-level con­cerns.”

Ms Barnes thanked the Coroners Court for the re­spect it had shown her and her fam­ily, and Judge Gray thanked her for “your highly in­struc­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion” in the in­quest.

Judge Gray will make find­ings later this year.

 ??  ?? Darcey Free­man
Darcey Free­man

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