NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will announce legal reforms targeting child sexual offenders.The NSW government is passing the buck on child sex reforms, according to a victims’ group, which accuses Premier Gladys Berejiklian of “cherry-picking” which royal commission recommendations to adopt.
The state government on Tuesday announced expansive law reform addressing 50 of the institutional sex abuse royal commission’s 85 recommendations.
Among the reforms, judges will have the power to sentence people convicted of “persistent” child sex abuse – being two or more instances – to life in prison.
They also include new offences for people who fail to report or protect against child abuse, Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
However, NSW won’t scrap the exemption which means religious figures don’t have to mandatorily report child abuse if it’s disclosed in the confessional.
Ms Berejiklian believes that change needs to be discussed nationally.
“Our response to that recommendation is to take that through the COAG process,” the premier said on Tuesday.
But Care Leavers Australasia Network chief executive Leonie Sheedy argues Ms Berejiklian should stand up to the churches.
“They need to be accountable just like every other n citizen – we don’t live under canon law, we live under n law,” Ms Sheedy told AAP.
“They’re buck-passing. It’s not acceptable to cherry-pick the recommendations you like.”
Ms Sheedy is disappointed with the government’s lack of action on religious reporting but she welcomes the other reforms announced on Tuesday.
The new laws will require courts to consider current sentencing standards rather than those in place when the offences occurred.
Judges will also no longer take into account an offender’s good character when sentencing for historical offences if that good character facilitated the offending.
Four new offences will be established including failing to report child abuse, failing to protect a child from abuse, grooming an adult to gain access to a child and sexual touching of a child under the special care of the offender.
“These historic reforms are designed to deliver survivors the justice they deserve and impose tougher penalties on offenders for their appalling abuse of children,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“NSW continues to lead the nation in its response to the royal commission by introducing one of the state’s largest-ever criminal reform packages.”
Attorney-General Mark Speakman says proving persistent abuse will also now become much easier for victims.
“The problem with the law at the moment is the need to demonstrate specific circumstances, specific times and places,” Mr Speakman told reporters.
“We’re changing that so what you’ll have to prove is an ongoing sexual relationship can be constituted by two or more circumstances.
“It will not be necessary to prove specific times and places to establish the persistent child abuse offence.”