Judges blasted Farnell assaults
Visit: Officers from the Department of Child Protection visit the Bunbury home. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

The Bunbury father at the centre of a surrogacy scandal after one of his twin babies was left in Thailand had violated the innocence and robbed the childhoods of two young girls whom he repeatedly sexually assaulted over two years in the 1980s.

The seriousness of the child sex offences committed by David John Farnell in two separate cases involving three girls was revealed yesterday after the release of District Court sentencing transcripts outlining the details of the indecent dealing charges which left judges with no option but to impose immediate jail terms.

The Department for Child Protection revealed it would inquire into whether action should be taken to safeguard the wellbeing of the seven-month-old baby girl brought home to WA by Mr Farnell and his wife Wendy, after it emerged earlier this week that the father was a repeat child sex offender.

Department officers visited the Farnells' apparently deserted home on Tuesday night and yesterday morning but failed to make contact and were still trying to communicate with the family by lunchtime.

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Late yesterday, the department refused to comment on the case and would not confirm whether they had been able to contact the family to determine if further action should be taken.

Child Protection Minister Helen Morton today said the department had made phone contact with the biological parents.

“The Department for Child Protection and Family Support has had contact with the family, and is continuing its investigation into the safety and wellbeing of the surrogate child in WA featured in the media recently," she said.

“It is important that all relevant information is gathered from a range of areas and agencies, and that we speak with everyone involved from family members through to those providing support services.

“While we understand the high level of community interest in the case, the Department will not be providing an on-going commentary on its status, as to do so could prejudice its inquiries and create stress within the family.

“The paramount consideration in this case, now and in the future, must be the well-being of the child and its family.”

The RSPCA removed a dog from the home yesterday amid concerns it had not been left with adequate food and water.

The twins' surrogate mother Pattharamon Janbua has accused the couple of abandoning their baby boy Gammy, who has Down syndrome, and taking only their healthy baby daughter back to Australia.

The Reuters news agency reports today that the agent who brokered the surrogacy deal said the couple had offered to take the boy home with them along with his twin sister.

The agent told Reuters the biological parents made the offer to take the boy some weeks after the birth.

"In the end, they told me they would take both babies. They didn't want to be a problem for the surrogate mother any more but she (Pattharamon) did not take that chance," the agent told the agency.

Mr Farnell's son has defended his father, telling Fairfax Media he was a good father.

"I can tell you how good of a father my dad was towards us. He's amazing. He's brought the best out of all of us kids," he son said.

“He's made mistakes. We've accepted it ... he's made up for them. For everything to be brought back up (is) pretty heartbreaking, to be honest.”

He said his father and his wife, Wendy, were preparing a statement that would explain everything.

Wendy Li and David Farnell. Picture: South West Times

A person claiming to be the Farnells' friend told the Bunbury Mail the couple denied the claims and were devastated they had to leave him behind.

The case has grabbed worldwide headlines and prompted debate over surrogacy laws.

Mr Farnell, now aged 56, pleaded guilty to 18 indecent dealing offences in March 1997 after two adult women reported historic abuse committed by the electrician in 1982 and 1983.

The District Court sentencing transcript reveals the offences were committed in Mr Farnell's home and garden shed when the girls were aged about seven and 10.

Judge Michael O'Sullivan, who sentenced Mr Farnell to three years jail, described the then father of three's offending as a breach of trust that had exploited the two girls.

"The complainants suffer emotional problems as a result of your conduct towards them," Judge O'Sullivan said.

"They are prone to depression, they have difficulties in forming relationships and they suffer from sexual problems. None of that is surprising because you, by your conduct, robbed these girls of their childhood."

In January 1998, Mr Farnell denied five indecent dealing charges relating to offences against a girl aged under 13 in the early 1990s. After being convicted of four of the charges, Judge Ivan Gunning said Mr Farnell had shown "no remorse whatsoever" and added 18 months to his sentence.

The West Australian

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