No fears for Darcey
I’d do nothing different, doctor tells inquest
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.