Queenslanders are being urged to have their say about proposed new legislation aimed at strengthening the state’s child sexual offence laws.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the State Government had today released draft legislation for public consultation to implement recommendations from the Criminal Justice Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
“A key priority for the Government is to implement recommendations that will provide a fairer response to victims of institutional child sexual abuse,” Mrs D’Ath said.
“The Royal Commission acknowledged that the criminal justice system is unlikely to provide an easy or straightforward experience for a complainant of institutional child sexual abuse.
“However, the Royal Commission considered its recommendations would make a positive difference to the experience of many survivors, while not undermining the fairness of a trial for the accused.”
Mrs D’Ath said the proposed reforms include the creation of a new failure to report child sexual abuse offence.
“The Royal Commission found one of the greatest barriers to achieving justice for children who had been sexually abused were those faced in reporting,” she said.
“The new failure to report offence will help ensure children no longer need to suffer in silence, and instances of child sexual abuse are no longer able to go unreported to police, including where perpetrators disclose the abuse during religious confession.
“This new offence will carry a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.”
Mrs D’Ath said while the State Government respects the rights of individuals to practise their religion freely, religious confessions will not be able to be used as an excuse to not report child sexual abuse.
A complementary offence of failing to protect against institutional child sexual abuse was also proposed and would carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
“Additionally, it was proposed that perpetrators of historical child sexual offences would be sentenced in accordance with sentencing standards at the time of court proceedings rather than at the time when the offence was committed.
Other reforms for consideration in the bill include making it illegal to own or be in possession of child-like dolls with design features for sexual gratification.
The dolls, designed to look like pubescent or pre-pubescent children, are manufactured overseas. Under the Commonwealth Customs Act 1901 it is illegal to import these child sex dolls into Australia.
However, Mrs D’Ath said there was no current offence in Queensland that forbade the possession of such an item when proof of importation could not be established.
“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to ensuring any item which depicts children in a sexualised way or allows a person to imitate sexual acts with a child is prohibited,” Mrs D’Ath said.
“This is why we are going one step further than the current importation laws concerning these dolls by proposing legislation making it illegal for any person to be in possession of these dolls or parts to construct one.”
Mrs D’Ath said the anatomically designed dolls were simply child exploitation material in a product form.
“There is concern these dolls may lead to an escalation in child sex offences as they potentially bridge the gap between fantasy and reality and may normalise paedophilic behaviour,” she said.
“Also, because these dolls offer no negative emotional feedback they may desensitise the user from the harm that child sexual assault invariably causes.
“The fact that these dolls can possibly lead to children being objectified as sexual beings and also promote child sex as a commodity is abhorrent, and another reason why they must be banned,” Mrs D’Ath said
Between July 2013 and June 2018 the Department of Home Affairs reported that 133 of the child sex dolls were imported into Australia. A number of the dolls have been seized in Queensland.
Legislative reforms recommended in the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council’s report on the classification of child exploitation material for sentencing purposes, specifically relating to the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, also form part of the proposed reforms.
“These changes will ensure courts sentencing child exploitation material offenders will have a clear legislative direction to consider how an offender has engaged with the material and their relationship with the children depicted in the material,” Mrs D’Ath said
To view the draft legislative reforms and to provide comment and feedback on them visit https://www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath