Police pedophile groomed, abused 50 boys over 30 years

William Ton |

A Tasmanian police officer has been found to have used his position to abuse children.
A Tasmanian police officer has been found to have used his position to abuse children.

Dozens of young boys were groomed or sexually abused by a former police officer who used his status to stealthily target his victims and their parents over three decades, a report has found.

Senior Sergeant Paul Reynolds used his status as a “trusted” member of the community to groom and abuse up to 52 young boys as far back as 1988, a final independent review into his behaviour found.

Reynolds, who worked for a decade after accusations were first raised against him, took his own life in September 2018 while being investigated over child abuse allegations.

The report, led by barrister Regina Weiss and released on Thursday, heard from 87 people, among them 15 victim-survivors or their families.

It found Reynolds used the perception that he had power as a police officer to influence the outcome of criminal processes over his victims.

“But this was less reality, more grooming tool,” Ms Weiss said.

On one occasion, Reynolds visited a victim’s house with a police report about him, which Ms Weiss found was likely fabricated, and sexually abused him after telling him he could make the complaint “go away”.

“I had never been in trouble with the law, I had kept myself clean and tidy and had always kept my nose clean,” the victim-survivor told the review.

“I didn’t want to be in trouble or on the wrong side of the law.”

While Reynolds built up trust and connection amongst the community through his role, sport was his hunting ground.

He was heavily involved with football and basketball coaching, umpiring and administrative capacities, including president of the Northern Tasmanian Football Association at the time of his death.

As a coach, Reynolds was viewed by some as “a father figure and role model” and would offer to the families of teenage boys massages for their children after claiming he had sports massage experience.

Others were offered “special coaching” which unsuspecting parents had no reason to question.

“The picture painted of Reynolds as a community member by participants was of a person who was ‘larger than life’ and as a police officer who was ‘always offering to help’,” Ms Weiss said.

There was no evidence of Reynolds holding accreditation in massage or sports therapy.

“I genuinely believe that one of the main reasons he wanted to be in the position of NTFA president was so he could have unfiltered access to football change rooms,” one victim-survivor told the review.

Reynolds was able to normalise grooming and sexualised conduct stealthily through sexualised conversations and secret-keeping with teenage boys.

He told his victims graphic stories of encounters with women to lure them into a sense of intimacy and secrecy before messages would escalate into sexualised conversations under the guise of experimentation.

One victim, who was a teenager at the time, described Reynolds as “just the greatest groomer and ideal human”.

“He was so charismatic everyone wanted to be around him,” he said.

The review identified shortcomings among sporting organisations after a report was made to the highest levels of the football association board about suspected inappropriate conduct.

A search of records showed this was not passed on to police or any other agency.

Ms Weiss made five recommendations, which the state has accepted in full.

It recommended a redress scheme, a restorative engagement framework for people groomed or sexually abused by officers, a dedicated victim management team within Tasmania Police and for the government to make changes to the Integrity Commission Act.

It also recommended strengthening community engagement and build trust between police and sporting organisations to prevent, identify and report grooming and sexual abuse.

The Weiss report made seven referrals to Tasmania Police relating to other former or serving officers and one referral relating to a person who is not a police officer.

There is no evidence of child sexual offending by current serving officers in the force, the report said.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)