Police have charged a male youth after a 4-year-old boy was allegedly sexually assaulted in a remote indigenous community in the Northern Territory (NT), Australia.
The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is due to face court in Alice Springs on a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, reported The Australian, citing a police spokesperson.
The alleged incident is believed to have occurred on Sunday, March 25, behind the community’s Baptist Church in Ali Curung.
On March 26, police told News Corp in a statement that authorities from the NT’s child abuse taskforce were involved in investigating the alleged sexual assault.
Authorities are also investigating whether the young victim was known to welfare officials prior to the incident or subject to child safety notifications, reported The Australian.
The 4-year-old boy was reportedly airlifted to a hospital in Alice Springs. His condition is unknown.
The territory’s chief minister, Michael Gunner, described the alleged assault as an “extremely disturbing incident.”
“Every child, no matter where they live, deserves to be in a safe environment,” Gunner said, reported the newspaper.
“Police are investigating and have sent Child Abuse Taskforce members into the community. Additional Territory Families staff are also in the remote town.
“This matter will also be referred to the children’s commissioner for investigation.”
Ken Davies, the head of Territory Families, said they were looking into the incident to determine what had happened.
“I can’t say anything really except we’ve got a team on the ground working with police,” Davies told the news station.
“We have a Territory Families officer there and we’re there with police. We know the families fairly well.
“We’re trying to ascertain how serious it is. We’ll certainly be working closely with police,” he added.
NT’s opposition leader, Gary Higgins, said the Territory’s children are “some of the nation’s most vulnerable people” and their safety should be “at the core of all decision-making, irrespective of cultural beliefs,” reported The Australian.
“I call on the Territory government to implement whatever is necessary to ensure that horrendous incidents such as this never happen again,” he said.
“This is a complex set of problems that cannot be solved overnight, but what sort of society do we live in if we cannot commit to addressing this crisis?”
This incident follows the alleged sexual assault of a 2-year-old girl at Tennant Creek – about 2 hours away from Ali Curung – in February this year. The 24-year-old suspect was charged with sexual intercourse without consent and was denied bail. The baby girl was flown to South Australia for emergency medical care.
Between the period of Feb. 1, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018, nine cases of sexual assault were reported in the Tennant Creek region, according to statistics from the NT Police. This number is down from 17 sexual assault cases reported in the same period for the previous year.
The police investigation is still ongoing. No further details have been provided.