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A criminal justice reform package aimed at toughening child sex abuse penalties including a life sentence has been introduced to the NSW Parliament.
Attorney General Mark Speakman announced the package on Wednesday morning following a series of recommendations by the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.
One of the major changes is a maximum life sentence for a strengthened offence of persistent child sexual abuse.
“The reforms… better reflect community expectations and will assist in ensuring that perpetrators are held to account for their appalling abuse of children,” Mr Speakman said.
Creating tougher penalties for current and historical child sex offenders, some of the other key changes include:
- Introducing new offences for failure to report and failure to protect against child abuse;
- Requiring courts not to take into account an offender’s good character when sentencing for historical offences where their reputation facilitated the offending;
- Requiring courts sentencing for historical child sexual assault offences to apply current sentencing standards and to reflect present understanding about the lifelong trauma sexual abuse can cause; and
- Introducing a new offence of grooming an adult to access a child and strengthening the current grooming offence to include providing a child with gifts or money.
- Child advocacy group Blue Knot Foundation president Dr Kathy Kezelman believes the reforms are a step forward in addressing child sexual abuse throughout NSW.
“It is a very significant set of changes in terms of responding to the needs of the community and the needs of children and victims,” Dr Kezelman said.
“Hopefully it means that children will be safer… that when victims come forward, that there will be a just response to their allegations and appropriate sentencing for perpetrators responsible for the crime,” she said
“If they [abuse survivors] wanted to pursue a criminal justice process, this has opened up a pathway to do that,” Dr Kezelman said.
Mr Speakman added further praise to the survivors of child sexual abuse who have consistently advocated for tighter state laws.
“The courage survivors have shown and continue to show in telling their stories never fails to astonish me. They are changing the way our laws respond to child sex abuse.” Mr Speakman explained.
Over 16,000 individuals contacted the Royal Commission about sexual abuse across a number of churches. The commission heard more than 8,000 personal stories in private sessions. More than 1,000 survivors provided a written account of their experience.