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Aussie Coach Scott Volkers Finally Cleared of Sexual Assault Charges -- April 20, 2004

By Stephen J. Thomas

Brisbane, Qld., Australia, April 21. AFTER two long years of proclaiming his innocence, charges against 45-year-old Scott Volkers were finally laid to rest when the Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson last Friday announced that no fresh charges would be laid against Volkers following independent advice from the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

As is often the situation, media coverage surrounding the conclusion of the case has been insignificant in comparison to the massive headlines it created when charges were first brought against the former head women’s coach of the national team. Certainly the focus here in Australia right now is squarely on the Thorpe-Stevens saga, now in its 25th day.

The charges were first brought back in March 2002 with Volkers accused of indecent dealings with three teenage girls he coached in the mid-1980s after an ABC television program brought to light the allegations of one of the swimmers. However, those charges were dropped six months after he had been committed to stand trial.

However, the threat of another prosecution has loomed over him for the past year since the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) was directed to investigate the handling of the original case by the DPP.

"I have suffered an enormous amount both professionally and personally during this whole episode," Volkers told journalists after hearing of the decision.

"I still find it very difficult to understand how people can say things about someone from 20 years ago, and someone be put through a nightmare such as this - basically guilty until proven innocent. I have been subjected to two separate police investigations, two separate CMC investigations, two separate DPP rulings, I don't think there is any more scrutiny that one person could not only handle but go through to have to maintain their innocence.”

Volkers, the former coach of Aussie swim stars Susie O'Neill and Samantha Riley, said the intense media scrutiny had placed "unnecessary strain" upon his health and life. "The damage it has done to me could not possibly be measured," he said.

Volkers, who is now the head coach at the Queensland Academy of Sport, thanked his lawyers and Australian Swimming for their support and said he would continue with plans to coach members of the Olympic swim team in Europe in coming months, but would not be attending the Athens Games in any capacity. He also said he would consider applying for the job of national head coach, due for review in October.

Julie Gilbert, the woman at the center of the sexual offence allegations and now a mother of three children, said she was "absolutely devastated" by the decision. However, she has not given up hope of pursuing her former coach in the courts.

"The only other option available to me is a private prosecution which I would love to do," she said. "Unfortunately the cost involved is a big issue.”