Commission of Inquiry hears little done to stop pedophile James Geoffrey Griffin despite report of child abuse material on laptop

A person who bought a laptop from Launceston nurse James Geoffrey Griffin found child exploitation material on it and told police nearly 20 years before Griffin was finally charged with child sexual abuse, the Tasmania Commission of Inquiry has heard.

The inquiry into the Tasmanian government’s responses to child sexual abuse will hold hearings for two weeks in Launceston, focusing on the health system and Launceston General Hospital (LGH), where Griffin worked as a nurse in the pediatric ward.

WARNING: This article contains content that some readers may find distressing.

In her opening address, counsel assisting the commission told Elizabeth Bennett SC at the hearing that James Griffin’s case was one of “familiarity, rumor and fear,” and that he had interacted with children through his work as a nurse, a volunteer ambulance officer, korfball volunteer, about the Spirit of Tasmania and at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

“We recognize that some people have chosen not to speak to the committee and we respect their decision and recognize that parts of the story may go untold.”

Ms Bennett told the committee that Griffin sold his laptop to someone in the late 1990s, who then connected him to the Internet in 2000 and found child exploitation material and links to child pornography websites.

She said that person lodged a complaint with Tasmania Police in September 2000, but that counsel was “unable to determine the outcome of that complaint”.

A white hospital building with multicolored panels and trees in front of it.
Griffin worked at Launceston General Hospital as a pediatric nurse.ABC News: Luke Bowden

Ms Bennett told the inquiry that the complainant sent an email to the police in March 2001, saying he was concerned that they had not heard anything about their complaint about the “registered nurse named Jim Griffin in the Launceston area who, according to I have ties to Internet pornography involving minors based on the contents of the computer he owned”.

“I don’t want to think that he is working unsupervised in a children’s ward in Tasmania from what I have found,” Ms Bennett read from the complainant’s email.

Griffin had started at the LGH a month earlier and in September 2001 he moved to the children’s section, Ward 4K.

Long list of complaints, warnings before charging Griffin

Ms. Bennett listed a series of complaints made about Griffin during his time at the LGH, beginning in 2004 when he received a written warning about hugging an adolescent patient and was asked not to do so again.

“We don’t know if this is his first breach, and the state of records at the hospital will be a major concern,” Ms Bennett said.

She said that in 2005, Griffin kissed an 11-year-old patient on the forehead with what was described as a “wet kiss” and was told to have a meeting about “boundaries.”

Ms Bennett said a letter with results on the 2004 and 2005 cases has been forwarded to the hospital’s human resources department.

Ms. Bennett told the investigation that another border crossing was identified in 2009 when Griffin offered to stay overnight with a young female patient and not long after, he was seen hugging a pre-teen girl at the LGH.

She said there were also documented reports around this time that Griffin had given his phone number to patients.

The investigation found that Griffin was advised and warned that if complaints were to be made in the future, the cases may need to be referred to the hospital’s nursing director.

A police car in Tasmania
The buyer of Griffin’s laptop sent an email to the police in 2001, saying they were concerned that they hadn’t heard anything about their complaint.ABC News: Janek Frankowski

In March 2009, Tasmania Police received a report that Griffin had “skimmed” young girls (taken photos of their skirts) while working as a medic on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry.

Police searched Griffin’s home and found that he daily cleared his Internet browsing history and had “a large number of photos of young girls”, but Ms. Bennett said the case was “inquiries” and there was no record. that Tasmania Police have formally notified the LGH.

She listed further cases of “inappropriate contact” by Griffin in 2009 and said he was advised of his professional limits regarding deviating from a patient’s plan of care and also told to stop emailing former patients.

In November 2009, there was a complaint from a patient’s mother who was concerned that Griffin would be around her child after hearing staff say he was a “womanizer and a sleaze.”

Ms. Bennett said a few years later that a woman who was abused by Griffin as a child saw him working in the pediatric ward and told the hospital’s HR department about her abuse.

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