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Govt to examine accused paedophile's access to child in care

Date

Louis Andrews

Alleged child sex offender Michael Watt leaves the Magistrates Court in April after being granted bail.

Alleged child sex offender Michael Watt leaves the Magistrates Court in April after being granted bail. Photo: Melissa Adams

The ACT government is reviewing how accused child molester Michael David Watt, who was found dead last week, gained access to his alleged victim, who was a child in the care of the territory.

But it appears while the youth worker had been the subject of similar allegations in New Zealand, that information was unlikely to emerge through routine checks.

The 25-year-old Conder man was pronounced dead at his home a week ago, less than a month after being granted bail. The circumstances of his death are not considered suspicious.

Magistrate David Mossop brought an end to all criminal proceedings in the ACT Magistrates Court yesterday. The accused man was facing seven charges of a sexual nature relating to a 12-year-old boy in the care of the territory.

Watt, who had no criminal convictions, had not entered pleas to any of the charges.

Police alleged in court last month that the man had been the subject of similar allegations in New Zealand, although there was no evidence he'd been charged.

And police also held fears there may have been other victims after a search of Watt's house turned up a resume listing vulnerable children he had worked with.

The alleged victim's name was last on the list.

The name of Watt's employer has been suppressed by the court, even after his death, in the interests of protecting the alleged victim.

The Community Services Directorate said yesterday it was also looking into the circumstances of the tragic events.

''The Community Services Directorate takes incidents of this nature very seriously and would always review all aspects of a case such as this,'' a spokesman said. ''Circumstances such as this require a thorough and objective review of all dimensions, which takes time.

''This case is no different, and [the directorate] is currently undertaking that work.''

More stringent background checks for people working with children or vulnerable adults will be enacted in November, under legislation passed in the Legislative Assembly late last year.

But currently the directorate requires agencies providing care services to subject their staff to a police check and a care and protection systems check.

An ACT Policing spokesman said it was unlikely the New Zealand allegations against Watt would have come to light through a routine police check if he hadn't been charged.

Police checks can reveal convictions, charges, matters expected to appear before the court and findings of guilt where no conviction was recorded.

But the spokesman said such checks were also only widened to encompass international jurisdictions at an employer's request.

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