Tougher sentences, new laws for paedophiles

Attorney-General Mark Speakman.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

ANY paedophile sentenced from Friday for historical child sexual offences will face new legislation and tougher sentences as part of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Child sex offenders convicted of historical matters will no longer be allowed to rely on antiquated and lenient sentencing practices from when the offence occurred.

And they will also no longer be able to rely on prior good character as a mitigating factor during sentencing. 

“Thanks in part to the Child Abuse Royal Commission, in 2018 we have a much better understanding of the lifelong impact and trauma of child sexual abuse and this is reflected in the tougher sentencing principles we have adopted,” Attorney General Mark Speakman said.

“The community is rightly concerned about some sentences given for historical child sexual offences and this reform will help ensure paedophiles are appropriately held to account.”

Also among the reforms is new laws that put institutions on notice to protect children from abuse, with the introduction of two new offences. 

The offences are concealing information relating to child abuse from police, referred to as “failure to report”, and failing to reduce or remove a risk of a child being abused, or “failure to protect”. 

Each offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail, or, in the case of failure to report, five years if the concealment is for the individuals or another person’s benefit. 

“The Child Abuse Royal Commission uncovered too many examples of institutions letting down children in their care and the public at large by failing to report a child abuser from their ranks,” Mr Speakman said. “From now on, penalties will apply if they don’t do the right thing. People involved in child-related work at sporting clubs, schools and other organisations also need to understand they can no longer turn a blind eye to a risk of abuse and now must act to protect children or risk a potential jail term.”

The laws taking effect on Friday are in response to recommendations made in the 2017 Criminal Justice Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.