Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 14 Hansard (30 November) . .
commission and provides an unprecedented evidence base for a fairer response to victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
I will now outline the main features of the amendments giving effect to the royal commission recommendations in this bill. These amendments are only the beginning of the ACT government's work on this report, and we will keep on working to deliver a stronger legal framework for survivors.
The bill amends section 56 of the Crimes Act 1900 to provide for the most serious instances of sustained and ongoing child abuse to be prosecuted. The amendments give effect to the model provision recommended by the royal commission so that the criminal act is constituted by the ongoing unlawful sexual relationship rather than individual sexual acts.
This allows for prosecutions in a manner consistent with the ways in which victims remember abuse and has retrospective effect in recognition of the fact that delay is a typical, rather than a peculiar, feature of child sexual abuse. For example, between January 1980 and February 2015, 4,444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse to 93 Catholic Church authorities. These claims related to over 1,000 separate institutions. The average age of people who made claims of child sexual abuse at the time of the alleged abuse was 10.5 for girls and 11.6 for boys. The average time between the alleged abuse and the date a claim was made was 33 years.
The changes in this bill mean that perpetrators of sexual abuse will not be able to avoid prosecution by trying to pick apart individual acts or memories. To allow such a change would almost advantage repeated abuse, which happens so often that it can be hard for a survivor to remember specific events, over single incidents. This law will mean that serial abusers will be prosecuted on the basis of evidence about how survivors recall that abuse.
The bill also amends section 66 of the Crimes Act with regard to grooming offences. Grooming refers to a preparatory stage of child sexual abuse where an adult gains the trust of a child, and perhaps other people of influence in the child's life, in order to take sexual advantage of the child. It is a complex, commonly incremental process that can involve three main stages; firstly, gaining access to the victim; secondly, initiating and maintaining the abuse; and, thirdly, concealing the abuse.
Grooming includes a range of techniques, many of which are not explicitly sexual in themselves. The royal commission noted that what makes otherwise benign conduct grooming is the intention of the person engaging in the conduct for his or her conduct to make more likely or facilitate sexual relations with a child.
This clause adopts the recommendations of the royal commission to create two new grooming offences. The new offences capture any communication or conduct with a child undertaken with the intention of grooming the child to be involved in a sexual offence, and extend the broad grooming offence to grooming people other than the child. For example, it may be conduct such as encouraging an adult responsible for the child to leave the child alone with the accused.
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