Violent sexual offender not properly assessed before release, inquest hears

As the inquest continues into the rape and murder of remote nurse Gayle Woodford, more details are emerging around the series of blunders that led to her death.

In 2016, Woodford, 56, was working in the APY Lands community of Fregon, South Australia, for Nganampa Health Council (NHC) – where she had been working for almost five years.

The outback nurse was killed by convicted rapist, Dudley Davey, who was later sentenced to life in prison with a 32-year minimum non-parole period in 2017.

The coronial inquest into Woodford’s death heard last week that NHC ignored recommendations from police about remote nurse safety after a sexual assault in another community in 2012.

This week, the inquest learned there were problems with Davey’s assessment process in prison and that he was not recommended for release on parole prior to Woodford’s murder.

Director of the Sentence Management Unit at the Department for Correctional Services, Jane Farrin, told the court assessment teams had concluded Davey was at a high risk of reoffending should he be released.

Farrin told the coroner there was a string of delays in assessing Davey, which included an evaluation that was part of the violent sexual offender process.

The Director said there was an attempt to review Davey, however he fell asleep during the evaluation process.

The inquest heard although Davey was eligible for two rehabilitation programs, he was ultimately considered unsuitable because of his English skills.

Farrin admitted there were “in-built deficiencies and inefficiencies” in the assessment during that time, however she said these issues have since been amended.

“[The assessment] now responds to people with low literacy with education programs,” Farrin said.

Farrin also told the inquest that since taking over the Sentence Management Unit in 2015, evaluations of violent and sexual offenders have been streamlined so assessments take place at the beginning of offenders’ sentences.

When asked what safeguards were currently in place to protect remote nurses, SA Health declined to comment.

“We are unable to provide any comment on this case as it is currently before the Coroner,” said the one-line statement provided to NIT.

The State Government organisation also declined to say whether they will be doing anything to ensure the increased safety of outback nurses going forward.

By Hannah Cross

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