Adults who fail to report child sexual abuse could face criminal charges under new legislation passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said a new offence makes it clear that all adults have a duty to proactively report child sexual abuse to the police.
“We know that children are less likely to report abuse for a range of reasons. Children may continue to be at risk if adults aware of abuse, fail to report it – children must be protected, and perpetrators held accountable,” Minister Ramsay said.
The Bill also makes ministers of religion, religious leaders and members of the clergy mandatory reporters.
“This Bill makes it clear that those subject to the new offence, mandatory reporting requirements, or the Reportable Conduct Scheme have obligations to report even if the relevant information is disclosed in a religious confession.”
The reforms implement a number of recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and are informed by an analysis report prepared by The Hon. Justice Julie Dodds-Streeton.
“In addition to strengthening reporting requirements to better protect children, the Bill will also improve access to justice for survivors,” Minister Ramsay said.
“Sexual abuse survivors making a victim impact statement will also be better supported to be heard in court, under these reforms.
“Changes are also being made to abolish the outdated common law presumption that prior to 1984, males under 14 years were presumed incapable of sexual intercourse.
“We will keep working to ensure our justice system protects children from abuse, facilitates access to justice for survivors, and holds perpetrators accountable for their actions.”
The ACT Government will be working to ensure that the new reporting obligations are implemented effectively and thoroughly with relevant institutions and stakeholders.
This process is expected to take up to, but no longer than six months.
The Bill is the third set of reforms to implement recommendations made in the Royal Commission’s Criminal Justice Report, with further reforms planned in 2019 and 2020.