Royal Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan expects resistance to criminal justice recommendations

Change: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chair Justice Peter McClellan.
Change: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chair Justice Peter McClellan.

THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is expecting possibly strong resistance to recommended changes in the criminal justice system aimed at making the truth the objective of sexual abuse trials.

In a speech to lawyers in Sydney on Wednesday commission chair Justice Peter McClellan will say there are “likely to be some, perhaps many, practitioners and judges who will be resistant change”, after the commission last week presented its report on criminal justice to government.

Recommended changes are expected to include special hearings where children can give evidence as soon as possible after offences occur, and changes to current laws that leave children who have experienced the most serious and prolonged sexual offending facing some of the greatest obstacles when matters are heard in court.

“It is unacceptable, in our view, that the criminal justice system should accept a situation in which children who have suffered the most extensive abuse may be those who are less able to receive justice in the criminal courts,” Justice McClellan will say.

Commission research showed that conviction rates for sexual abuse and child sexual abuse had decreased since the commission was established in 2012. 

“Justice for victims of child sexual abuse can never be obtained without their willing participation in the criminal justice process. It is increasingly apparent that changes to the process of, and evidence admitted at, a criminal trial may be necessary to achieve this end,” Justice McClellan will say.