Vic Government considers tougher laws against child abuse

A Victorian Parliamentary Committee has recommended the introduction of new criminal laws that will make it an offence for someone to conceal or not report child abuse to police.

More than a year since it commenced its Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations, the Committee tabled its report titled “Betrayal of Trust” in the Victorian Parliament this week.

The report also recommended changes to the civil litigation system to make it easier for victims of child abuse to sue organisations.

“The Committee identified that in the past non-government organisations have tended to take the approach that the responsibility for criminal child abuse in their organisation lies solely with the perpetrator of that abuse,’’ the report said.

“While it accepts the attribution of responsibility to the perpetrator, the Committee nevertheless considers that organisations should also bear responsibility in these cases,’’ it said.

Some of the key recommendations in the report included:

  • To make failing to report or concealing criminal child abuse a criminal offence.
  • A new child endangerment offence, which will make it a criminal offence for people in authority to knowingly put a child at risk, or fail to remove them from a known risk, of child abuse.
  • A new grooming offence to make it a criminal offence to groom a child, their parents or others with the intention of committing a sexual offence against the child.
  • The removal of time limits for child abuse victims from the current statute of limitations.
  • New laws to ensure organisations are held accountable for their legal duty to protect children from criminal abuse and be held liable for the action of their employees, including volunteers.
  • The establishment of an independent scheme, funded by the non-government organisations, to assist victims pursuing civil claims.
  • The establishment of an independent body to oversee, investigate and monitor the handling of child abuse allegations by organisations.
  •  Improvements to the Working with Children Act.

“The criminal abuse of children involves extremely serious breaches of the laws of our community,” the Committee Chair, Georgie Crozier MP, said in a statement.

“When it happens in our society’s most trusted organisations, it is a betrayal beyond
comprehension. Those who engage in it, or are in positions of authority and conceal such offences, should be dealt with under the criminal law.”

The Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said in a statement that the recommendations “will be considered as a matter of urgency by the Government”.

The Victorian Report comes as The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said nearly 700 people nationwide had already shared their experiences with it in private sessions.

The body coordinating the Catholic Church’s response to the national Royal Commission welcomed the recommendations from the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry. But it recommended the Federal, state and territory governments consider implementing a consistent national approach.




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