Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Media Beat Off Up

Julian Gardner, Victoria's Public Advocate was on ABC radio this morning, talking to Jon Faine. Gardner wasn't a very happy man - in fact he was very pissed off.

On Sunday morning, Paul Cudmore, a patient at the Statewide Forensic Centre, "escaped custody", while on a supervised shopping trip to Northcote Plaza. Here's how the ever reliable Hun describes it:

Child molester on the run

A MENTALLY ill child-sex offender regarded as a potentially serious risk was still on the loose last night after escaping during a shopping trip.

Police have warned the public not to approach Paul Cudmore, 19, who was living under a guardianship order at a mental institution in Fairfield.

Cudmore was admitted to Statewide Forensic Service centre in March last year after serving a six-month sentence in a juvenile justice centre for child sex offences.

His escape has again prompted debate about day leave for dangerous mental patients and prisoners.

The Age doesn't do much better:

Victorian police are today hunting an intellectually disabled child-sex offender who fled from a Melbourne shopping centre while on a supervised visit from a government-run facility.

Paul Cudmore, 19, was placed on a guardianship order after serving a six-month sentence in 2002 for a sexual offence with a minor, Department of Human Services spokesman Brendan Ryan said.

Nor does the ABC:

Police believe a mentally ill child sex offender considered a danger to the community could have escaped to the New South Wales-Victorian border.

Paul Cudmore, 19, escaped from authorities during a shopping trip to Melbourne's Northcote Plaza yesterday morning.

The Hun at least gets the fact that Cudmore was living at the State Forensic Centre under a guardianship order right; what they don't mention (because this would spoil the whole story) is what that means.

Last year, after serving a six-month prison sentence, Cudmore was placed under the guardianship of the Office of the Public Advocate. Under the terms of the guardianship order, Cudmore was to reside at the State Forensic Centre, to receive psychiatric or psychological treatment. The trip to Northcote Plaza was, apparently, part of that course of treatment.

A lot has been made of the fact that Cudmore broke his guardianship order by "fleeing" or "absconding" from Northcote Plaza. In all the reports he is more or less made out to be a dangerous escaped criminal (or dangerous escaped nutter). Cudmore hasn't broken any laws; breaking a guardianship order isn't a criminal offence. The police are looking for him because his guardian (the Public Advocate) asked them to find him so that he could be returned to hospital. The same as you would if your aged, dementia stricken, granny wandered off from the nursing home where you'd been keeping her tucked away until she hopped the twig and left you all her dosh. Gardner summarised the situation this way:

"He's not a prisoner and he is not serving a sentence. He is somebody who is living in a therapeutic facility which runs programs for people with intellectual disabilities," he told ABC radio.

"What we've got here is a young man whose had one offence and I do think there is a risk that we are turning this into something that is far more hysterical than it needs to be."
(The Age)

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