Government's Child Sex Offences Legislation Not Good Enough

Today we called on the Liberal Government to end their law and order display, listen to the evidence, and deliver justice to victims of historical child sexual abuse.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [10.38 a.m.]: I speak on behalf of The Greens on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Child Sex Offences) Bill 2015. All child sex offices are extremely serious, and we have seen the devastation they wreak on people's lives. The Government's response to the report of the Joint Select Committee on Sentencing of Child Sexual Assault Offenders was due on 14 April this year and is yet to be tabled. It is concerning that, instead of responding to that report, the Government is seeking to rush through more legislation. Instead of implementing recommendation 1 of that report, which called for a review of all child sex offences and their penalties, the Government has instead chosen to introduce yet more piecemeal amendments. That is a problem and it is how the legislation became so inconsistent in the first place.

This bill does not appear to be based on any consultation or evidence that either current sentencing for non-historic offences is inadequate or judges have insufficient sentencing scope to impose sentences that they believe are just. On the contrary, this legislation appears to be more of a law-and-order show than real-world improvements to either the justice system or the plight of victims of child sex offences. The Greens are concerned about the collapse of the two section 66A (1) offences in schedule 1 [1] because of its practical implications for the criminal justice system. Removing the non-aggravated form of the offence is likely to lead to more child sex offence trials being run, more children and vulnerable adults being cross-examined, more prosecution discontinuances and conceivably more acquittals. Guilty pleas to offences attracting life imprisonment are rarely forthcoming.

The 25-year offence is an important fall-back charge for the prosecution to resolve matters without going to a traumatic and costly trial, where the result is never guaranteed. The reality is that an offence carrying 25 years imprisonment, such as the current section 66A (1) offences, has already been indicated by Parliament to be extremely serious. According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the judiciary is also already imposing more jail for longer, non-historic child sex offences, with an upward trend in lengths of imprisonment this century. The Greens' other real concern is with schedule 2, with its ad hoc inclusion of 13 offences in the standard non-parole period scheme about which The Greens have consistently voiced fears. Again, The Greens believe it would be better to refer all sex offence penalties to the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice for review of the offences as a whole.

This bill will do nothing to deliver justice to victims of historical child sexual abuse, so many of whom have spoken out for the first time in the context of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse. In fact, these changes will not affect a single offence committed before the new sentences come into effect. This is because offenders are sentenced in accordance with the social values in place at the time the offences were committed, not at the time of sentencing. The real injustice is not that judges cannot impose more than 25 years for a single charge of intercourse with a child under 10 years but that judges are hamstrung by the sentencing practices of the 1970s when child abuse, particularly when perpetrated by offenders of good standing with influence in the community, did not necessarily result in jail terms. That is the real injustice, which this bill does not resolve. The Greens will oppose the bill in this House. However, given our concerns, in the upper House we will move to refer the bill to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for consideration of the particular penalties within the criminal sentencing regime as a whole.


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