The Queensland parliament is considering a bill intended to provide justice for victims of sex abuse.  The legislation implements recommendations from the recent royal commission.  It is expected to be passed and come into effect in February 2020.

The changes include fundamental changes to the criminal law.  Among those changes, responsibility is placed on people working in institutions to reduce the risk of sex abuse and for adults generally to report sex abuse.

Under the proposed legislation, a person working in an institution commits a crime, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, if they know there is a significant risk that someone will commit a child sexual offence and they wilfully or negligently fail to reduce or remove the risk – s.229BB.

Any adult commits a crime, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment, if they gain information that causes or ought to cause them to believe that a child sexual offence is being, or has been, committed against a child by another adult and they do not disclose the information to a police officer as soon as reasonably practicable after the belief is, or ought reasonably to have been formed – s.229BC.

These changes add another layer of complexity to the regulated reporting obligations already existing in the child protection, health and education areas.  The new reporting obligation will apply to any adult, not just to those working in certain occupations as has previously been the case.

The net is widened to include a prevention obligation for anyone working in an institution that delivers services to children.

These are very serious responsibilities indeed.  Schools and agencies working with children under 16 years, or with older children who have mental impairment, must alter their compliance policies and procedures to provide for these new requirements.  Organisations which have developed a decision ‘tree’ to help managers decide how to act in circumstances relating to sexual abuse will have to update their tree.

For further information, contact Robert Cunningham.