Page 4240 - Week 11 - Thursday, 25 October 2018

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Ms Gillard has called on governments to exercise “due diligence and judicious decision-making to bring the royal commission’s recommendations to life”.

Today’s bill is an acknowledgement of our responsibility and represents our ongoing commitment to taking action. The government has already implemented a number of recommendations from the royal commission, some non-legislative and some legislative, that formed part of the Crimes Legislation Amendment Act passed by the Assembly in February this year. This bill represents the second legislative implementation of the royal commission criminal justice recommendations and it will be followed by further reforms, through both future bills and non-legislative reform.

Let me turn to each of the amendments giving effect to the royal commission’s recommendations in this bill. These amendments represent an important step as we keep on working to deliver a stronger legal framework for survivors. The bill includes a new offence that the royal commission recommended all jurisdictions should implement. It will create a new crime for people in authority in an institution failing to protect against the risk of child sexual abuse.

This offence will work to help prevent the unacceptable failures we saw through the royal commission report of people in authority moving known abusers to different roles in the same institution and allowing them to continue to perpetrate abuse on new children in that institution. There were numerous examples outlined in the royal commission report and in their case studies detailing the repeated failure of people in authority at institutions to act appropriately when allegations of child sexual abuse were made.

The royal commission’s case studies detail at great length institutional practices of concealing abuse and moving abusers to protect institutions rather than children. The inclusion of this offence is aimed at preventing such appalling failings from occurring in the future. This offence supports the ACT government’s commitment to reduce and protect against child sexual abuse in our community and our institutions.

In addition to a new offence, the bill continues the work of ensuring that our criminal procedures are effective in holding abusers to account for their crimes. Amendments in this bill will allow for the charging of child sexual offences as courses of conduct. What that means, for example, is that a single charge of sexual intercourse with a young person can be charged by describing a pattern of behaviour over several months.

A discrete time, place and allegation for each alleged incident will not be required for the charge. The royal commission found that making a complainant prove specific particulars in persistent child sexual abuse matters acts against the common experience of complainants who have suffered ongoing repeated abuse so that delineating separate acts may be, at best, an artificial exercise that does not convey the nature of the abuse they endured and, at worst, impossible. This bill will ensure that the way child sexual offences are charged and heard aligns with the evidence and the recommendations from the royal commission.

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