Australian 'Prisoner' star avoids jail for child sex abuse

AP News
|
Posted: Aug 20, 2015 11:38 PM
Australian 'Prisoner' star avoids jail for child sex abuse

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Actress Maggie Kirkpatrick, who played a sadistic prison warden nicknamed "The Freak" in an Australian soap opera, avoided jail on Friday when she was sentenced for molesting a 14-year-old devoted fan of the series more than 30 years ago.

The series, set in a women's prison, was known as "Prisoner" in Australia, and "Prisoner: Cell Block H" or "Caged Women" overseas. It ran from 1979 to 1986.

Kirkpatrick, 74, whose character Joan "The Freak" Ferguson would molest inmates with the excuse of conducting body searches, was convicted in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday on two counts of indecently assaulting the troubled girl in Kirkpatrick's Melbourne home in the 1984 and one count of gross indecency.

Magistrate Peter Mealy told the grandmother of two on Friday that he would have sentenced her to prison if not for the fact that there had been no more offenses since that single night in 1984.

Mealy ordered her to perform 100 hours of community service and to undergo treatment programs designed for sex offenders. She will remain on a sex offender register for eight years, during which she is banned from working with children and must keep police informed of her whereabouts.

He said Kirkpatrick had chosen a vulnerable victim and had shown no remorse.

Sydney-based Kirkpatrick met the victim at a Melbourne psychiatric hospital where the girl had been treated for substance abuse and a personality disorder. The victim, now a 45-year-old mother of three, first went to police in 2013.

Kirkpatrick also appeared in the Australian television series "All Saints," ''Pizza," ''Blue Heelers," ''Hey Dad!" and "Water Rats."

She declined to speak to the media when she left court on Friday.