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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . .

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Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (No 2)

Debate resumed.

MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for Regulatory Services, Minister for the Arts and Community Events and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (4.40), in reply: The Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (No 2) makes important changes to ACT criminal laws. This bill takes up some key changes recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It contains amendments that follow from this government's close attention to the events and the issues in the criminal justice system. Finally, it will provide a legislative basis for ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth have access to circle sentencing.

The bill represents another step in the ACT government's ongoing effort to improve our criminal justice legislation and to ensure that it is focused on protecting the most vulnerable people in our community. The government have been vocal and explicit in our commitment to implementing the findings of the royal commission. Today's bill contains three amendments that are recommended by the commission to support the prosecution of offences against children.

The royal commission heard thousands of stories of child sexual abuse in institutions. It travelled to every state and territory to hold 57 public hearings and 8,013 private sessions. It read 1,344 personal written accounts. Through the work of the royal commission Australia has learned about the multiple and persistent failings of institutions to keep children safe, the cultures of secrecy and cover-up and the devastating effects that child sexual abuse can have on an individual's life. This government will be implementing change in response. We will thoroughly examine all of the royal commission's findings and make sure that Canberra's framework for preventing and responding to abuse is as strong as it possibly can be.

Two amendments in this bill implement reforms based on what we know about survivor testimony and predatory behaviour. Amendments to section 56 of the Crimes Act make it possible to hold offenders responsible for sustained abuse over a period of time. Amendments to section 66 of the Crimes Act recognise that grooming behaviour can take many forms, including the grooming of parents and carers to gain access to children.

Both of these amendments have been subject to some discussion raised by the local legal profession, and the shadow attorney-general has related those comments in detail today. I have engaged directly with the Bar Association to resolve the technical issues that have been raised. I note that I will be moving amendments today which provide additional clarity to the provisions we drafted but which do not change the purpose or intent. I will briefly outline how each of these provisions works to provide some of the background for those changes.

The ACT's current grooming provision, section 66 of the Crimes Act, only covers online conduct. The amendments in this bill expand its use beyond online conduct.


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