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Aussie Head Women's Coach Volkers Still Not Out of the Woods with Indecency Charge -- April 4, 2003

By Stephen J. Thomas

SYDNEY, April 4. WITH his future still very much under a cloud, Australian head women's coach, Scott Volkers, left Australia earlier this week with the national team to compete in the Duel in the Pool meet against the USA this Sunday in Indianapolis.

A report just released by Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission described as "unsatisfactory" the processes leading to the decision last year to drop seven charges against Volkers of indecently dealing with three underage girls he was training in the mid-1980s.

Volkers was committed to stand trial last July but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charges on the basis of witness statements supplied by his lawyers that police were not permitted to examine.

The report said there was room for doubt about the principal reasons that motivated the decision by the DPP's deputy director, Paul Rutledge.

"The decision by Mr Rutledge to accept statements profferred with a view to persuade him that the charges could not be upheld, on the basis that use of the statements was restricted, was a mistake," the report said. "There are obvious dangers in permitting lawyers to submit statements to the prosecution in this way."

Queensland's Attorney General wants a report from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by the end of the week on how it will respond to criticism about its handling of indecent dealing charges against swimming coach Scott Volkers.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) has cleared the DPP and police of misconduct but says the processes leading to the decision to drop the charges were unsatisfactory.

One of the women behind the allegations, Julie Gilbert, says she is pleased the report found shortcomings in the DPP's processes and she wants the charges reinstated.

"All we're asking for is our time in court," she said.

Australian Swimming Inc. has since received legal advice from its lawyers that the report does not change Volker's position. Just before flying out to the United States, ASI Chief Execetive Officer Glen Tasker said that their lawyers have quite clearly stated that the report neither confirms nor overturns the DPP's decision not to proceed with charges against Volker's, so Australian Swimming's position remains as it did prior to the report being released.

Speaking on ABC radio, Tasker said, "If the police decide to proceed with their allegations or there are new charges, then we would be talking to Scott's employer in Queensland, which is the Queensland Academy of Sport, and make a decision based on whatever's put in the public arena."

However Tasker went on to confirm, "whilst the allegations are still unproved, Scott will remain as part of Australian Swimming's plans for the future."