Survivor of The Family cult spared conviction

The Age (Australia)/July 5, 2005
By Angela O'Connor

Sarah Moore, the woman who broke away from The Family cult, became a doctor and then wrote herself dozens of prescriptions for pethidine, has escaped conviction and jail.

Magistrate Nunzio La Rosa imposed a community-based order of 250 hours unpaid work and a four-year good behaviour bond on Ms Moore, 35, who last week pleaded guilty to 160 charges relating to writing prescriptions for pethidine from November 2004 to April this year.

The bond conditions require her to continue a drug rehabilitation program, obey instructions from her psychiatrist and follow orders of the Victorian Doctors Health Program.

Mr. La Rosa said the fact that there was no conviction meant Ms Moore would not have to appear before a medical board.

He said he had taken into account the deprived life Ms Moore had experienced growing up in the cult led by Anne Hamilton-Byrne.

He said Ms Moore claimed she sought relief with pethidine for pain caused by an incision in her abdomen made as part of an initiation into the cult.

He said after growing up in The Family, Ms Moore had bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. He said she was the only victim of her crimes and had taken near-lethal doses of pethidine.

He said it was regrettable that the conditions in which young children adopted by Mrs Hamilton-Byrne had grown up had been allowed for so long.

The court heard that Ms Moore had been brought up under the harsh discipline imposed by the cult leader who adopted 14 children, including Ms Moore, and brought them up to believe they were her own.

Ms Moore, who broke away from The Family about 17 years ago, wrote a book Unseen Unheard Unknown in which she described her life as violated by drugs, violence, sleep deprivation and emotional manipulation. No child abuse charges have been laid against Hamilton-Byrne. The cult's Eildon property was raided in 1987.

Outside court, Ms Moore said there had been a lack of community support for the other children of The Family, including the (children known as the) Hamilton-Byrnes. "Those children have incredible problems, including suicide and psychiatric illness and drug and alcohol problems," she said.

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