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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 25 October 2018) . . Page.. 4241 ..

Additionally, to better recognise the shift in attitudes towards child sexual offending, the bill amends sentencing legislation to ensure that current sentencing practices are applied when sentencing for historic offences. It is important to note, however, that there is no proposed increase to any penalty available at the time the offences were committed. In recommending this change, the royal commission noted that historic sentencing practices downplay the long-term psychological harm to victims caused by sexual abuse and that sentencing offenders under historic standards could potentially have the effect of undermining public confidence in the judicial system or deterring complainants from coming forward in historic cases.

Finally, the bill makes broad changes to the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, the EMPA, to implement five royal commission recommendations, as well as a number of amendments that were proposed by ACT stakeholders through consultation on the royal commission report. The ACT has extensive special measures in place for a broad range of child and adult victims and witnesses in order to ensure access to justice, reduce trauma and capture the best quality evidence for the court. The additions in this bill strengthen those existing measures to ensure the royal commission recommendations are fully implemented.

The changes to the EMPA improve access to justice for vulnerable witnesses, allow better responses for children and their support networks when allegations of a crime are made, and aim to improve the timeliness and experience of giving evidence for children in particular. In drafting the provisions for the bill, due to the number of amendments required to various sections, the structure of the chapter containing the special measures has been updated and streamlined. The new structure retains the existing special measures but will make a big impact on improving the readability of the EMPA. This has the benefit of making the provisions more accessible for people in the justice system.

Madam Speaker, overall, the bill will improve the ACT justice system’s response to sexual violence by working towards a seamless legal framework for those who engage with it and by improving access to justice for victims. It does this by turning the recommendations of the royal commission into concrete changes in our legislation. The bill is an important step to providing fair and just legal responses to sexual violence, especially child sexual abuse, to ensure that those who use sexual violence are held accountable for their actions.

This bill is yet another example of the government’s solemn commitment to take responsibility and to implement the findings of the royal commission. We will keep working to improve our legal system and we will keep demonstrating in our words, in our actions and in our laws that protecting children is our absolute priority. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hanson) adjourned to the next sitting.

Emergencies Amendment Bill 2018

Mr Gentleman, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

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