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The easy treatment of paedophiles inside Queensland prisons

By Bernie Matthews - posted Monday, 14 July 2003

Some criminals are ostracised on both sides of the prison wall. In US prisons they are called short eyes; their gaze and mind-set never lifts higher than a child's height. In Australian prisons they are rock spiders; they hide behind the anonymity of darkness while weaving their webs to ensnare victims. Society calls them paedophiles.

Despite the labels, individuals who ruin children's lives rarely receive the maximum penalty. Only three offenders convicted of child sexual crimes in the past seven years have received the maximum sentence in Queensland. Those who do receive custodial sentences are placed in protective custody. Categorised as 'psychologically disturbed individuals' rather than convicted felons, they are kept isolated from mainstream population. This category ensures they receive a cushy ride through the prison system.

Ninety per cent of serious sex offenders failed to complete treatment programs before being released from Queensland jails in 2002. Only six of the 72 sex offenders whose prison terms ended in 2001-02 had completed such a program. 468 serious sex offenders were released into the community since 1999, despite refusing such treatment. 6.4 per cent of sex offenders released in 1997-98 re-offended within four years.


Queensland's $127 million, state-of-the-art male supergrass jail, Wolston Correctional Centre (Wally World), houses rock spiders. They share Wally World with the State's jailyard dogs (criminal/prisoner informers) who serve their time in protective custody under a relaxed regime of incarceration. Although the prison is also segmented to isolate Queensland's female prisoner population it is largely populated by protected male prisoners who regard Wally World as a reward. It is their ticket to lower security classifications, prison farms and parole; guaranteed concessions not available in other maximum security jails.

The exclusion of rock spiders from the predominant criminal class, combined with their former social standing in the community, that makes them compliant and manageable prisoners in protective custody. This guarantees a trouble-free environment for Queensland prison authorities who prefer to handle that calibre of prisoner.

The calibre of Queensland rock spiders can be typified by four people.

Geoffrey Robert Dobbs, 48, a family man, churchgoer and youth worker, preyed upon Queensland children for over 30 years. Dobbs was uncovered when he put his video camera in for repairs and it revealed him sating his sexual aberrations with children. Police later found 500 hours of videos depicting Dobbs having sex with different children. He pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court to 116 charges involving 62 children aged from one year to 15.

Colgan Taylor, 80, a former Marist Brother who pleaded guilty in the same court to molesting two girls over a three-year period 20 years ago, had been a well-respected headmaster before transferring into pastoral care work in his late 50s. One of Taylor's victims was intellectually impaired when she was assaulted. She was aged between eight and eleven years at the time of the offences and the other victim was five years old. Taylor had served as a brother for more than 60 years.

Another retired Catholic priest, Michael Joseph McArdle, 67, pleaded guilty to more than 60 child-sex offences when he appeared in a Brisbane court on April 16, 2003. McArdle had been charged with indecent dealing with a boy under 14, between January 1973 and December 1974, together with a number of other offences of a similar nature. The indecent dealing and indecent treatment involved more than a dozen complainants and occurred between 1965 and 1987.


Disgraced former MLA Bill D'Arcy, 63, was convicted of 18 child-sex crimes including the rape of a 9-year-old student in front of the class he was teaching at a Queensland outback school. The youngest of the victims was six at the time of the abuse. The former millionaire MLA and caucus colleague of Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, was originally charged on 50 counts of child sexual abuse while he was a Queensland teacher.

On January 25, 2000, 18 days after he had received a 10 per cent parliamentary pay rise, D'Arcy was committed for trial on 18 counts of child sexual abuse. They included 3 counts of child rape, 11 counts of indecent dealing with girls under 12 and 4 counts of indecent dealing with a boy under 14. On November 1, 2000, he was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

D'Arcy's 14-year jail term was reduced to 10 years on August 22, 2001, because The Queensland Court of Criminal Appeal took into account his previous good character and his role as a Queensland MLA. The Court did not take into account that the offences D'Arcy had been convicted for had occurred during those years of "good character". The court rejected an application to have convictions on three charges of rape and 15 of indecent dealing quashed.

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About the Author

Bernie Matthews is a convicted bank robber and prison escapee who has served time for armed robbery and prison escapes in NSW (1969-1980) and Queensland (1996-2000). He is now a journalist. He is the author of Intractable published by Pan Macmillan in November 2006.

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