Royal Commission: New criminal laws for failing to report child abuse will be discussed at public hearings starting on Monday

IT is a question which should haunt all of us – and is at the very heart of the entire royal commission; if those who were told of sexual abuse acted upon the evidence, how many victims would it have saved from these monsters. 

It is that lack of action, sometimes perceived but many times real, that continues to permeate as the questions continue in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse    

Today, a public hearing begins in Sydney into Australia’s criminal justice system following the release of a 700-page paper commissioned by the royal commission. Part of those hearings will put third-party offences under the microscope and whether the law needs tightening to bring those who have failed to report or protect abuse of children to justice in a criminal sense.

In the discussion paper released in September, it was said that “many survivors have told us that they disclosed being abused at or around the time of the abuse to other adults in the institution, but those adults did not report the abuse to police or take steps to protect the child from further abuse’’.

It continued that “third-party offences raise the difficult issue of whether what could fairly easily be identified as a moral duty – to report child sexual abuse to police and to protect a child from sexual abuse – should become a legal obligation, breach of which would be punishable under criminal law.’’

Outspoken abuse survivor Peter Gogarty is one person calling for new laws to prosecute people responsible for covering up child sex crimes and the perpetrators.

In doing so, Mr Gogarty rightly points out that despite the fact that any reasonable person would consider such cover-ups as a crime, no one has ever been convicted.

This has to change. The damning evidence heard at the royal commission from across the country is testament to that.

The community has continuously heard the well-worn quote from lawmakers and those within the judicial system that “not only must justice be done; it must seen to be done’’.

It may have its origins from perceived bias within the judicial system, but it could easily be used in discussions such as this.

Because the community, after hearing the horrifying evidence from victims and the lack of support from leaders within churches, schools and youth organisations, needs its lawmakers to move with the times.