An Australian girl who was sold for sex while in state care is planning to sue the government of Tasmania. She was forced to have sex with as many 200 men last year, and she was only 12 years old at the time. She has since been rescued.
Children's Minister Lin Thorp admitted the Government had failed the girl. "On behalf of the Government I want to formally acknowledge, as the Commissioner's report demonstrates, that our systems, and indeed the broader community, failed this child," she said.
"This young girl was at the time of these offences living with her mother but subject to the care of the state. She was entitled to the protection that any member of our community would expect."
Ms. Thorp also assured the public when the report into her case was released earlier this month that the child was 'moving on' well.
Premier David Bartlett has previously indicated the girl might be eligible for compensation under 2007 legislation, which was designed to compensate wards of the state who were neglected in the 60s and 70s.
In early October 2009, a police investigation was launched as a result of police being notified by the Child Protection Authority.
A man acting as the girl's pimp, Gary Devine, and the girl's mother were both found guilty earlier this year of selling the girl for sex for $100 for half an hour in August and September 2009.
But the state police chose not to prosecute those who had had sex with her since there was not enough 'admissible' evidence against them, angering many including Children's Commissioner Paul Mason.
Mr Mason wanted the men charged as a deterrent against any other children being used for prostitution and so the public could be confident the law adequately protected children from such abuse.
The 12-year-old was under a care-and-protection order and the legal responsibility of the State Government while being sold as a prostitute.
Under Tasmania's Criminal Code, it is a defence against a charge of having sex with a person younger than 17 to argue that "on reasonable grounds" the defendant believed the child was above age.
It is understood many of the men, identified by Tasmania Police from phone records and subsequently interviewed, argued they thought the 12-year-old girl was older than 17, were shown fake identification "proving" she was over 18, and said it was too dark in the hotel room to see her face clearly.
But the girl is in no mood to give in. Her lawyer, Roland Browne, told the media that he was now seeking public donations to help in her case.
He said, "At the moment we are looking at an action in the Supreme Court against the state of Tasmania and others and the action will be a failure by the state as the guardian and the entity with custody of her to supervise her and give her reasonable care, provide reasonable care for her and generally look after her welfare on the basis that what has happened to her and that is all notorious now was just an abject failure of care by those that were responsible."
"But until we know the consequences of the failure of care to her, psychologically, we can't advance the case."
Mr Browne said the case had been complicated by the fact that the girl was suing the state, which continues to be her guardian.
To overcome this, the girl must take action independently of her guardian, although she cannot afford it.
Tthe girl must provide evidence she has suffered at the hands of their neglect.
The cost of expert reports to assess the extent to which these events have harmed her is going to cost somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000, including witnesses giving evidence at trial.
"We're of the view that she has a good case against the Government," Mr Browne said.