Bill to progress Commission of Inquiry recommendations released for consultation

Guy Barnett, Attorney General

A Bill to give effect to several recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings has today been released for consultation.

The Justice Miscellaneous (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 2024 (the Bill) addresses eight of the Commission’s short-term (for implementation by 1 July 2024) and medium-term legislative recommendations (for implementation by 1 July 2026).

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Guy Barnett, said that the legislative amendments contained in the Bill are solely about protecting children, improving the law’s response to victim-survivors of child sexual abuse, and holding offenders to account.

“We want to safeguard the most vulnerable in our community and to come down as hard as possible on those that would seek to commit the most abhorrent of crimes,” the Attorney-General said.

“As a Government we are totally committed to fully implementing each recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry – and today is an important step.

“We welcome consultation on the Bill, and I am determined to make sure that these changes make a difference for Tasmanians.

“All Tasmanians deserve to be safe and if we are to fully recognise the vision of our 2030 Strong Plan for Tasmania’s Future, we must ensure we get this right.”

The amendments to criminal and civil law include:

  • ensuring organisations can make meaningful apologies for past child sexual abuse.
  • extending offences for child sexual abuse in the Criminal Code.
  • clarifying directions to juries by judges, such as prohibiting warnings to juries about the credibility of children as sole witnesses; and allowing for directions to juries such as children who have been sexually abused may respond in a variety of ways, and there may be good reasons why there can be a delay in victims reporting sexual offences.
  • providing for when tendency and coincidence evidence can be admitted.
  • providing that any alleged consent or acquiescence of a victim of child sexual abuse must not be taken into account in determining the appropriate sentence for the offender.

In addition, the Bill amends the Registration to Work with Vulnerable People Act 2013 by providing further statutory guidance to the Registrar, reinforcing that suspension or cancellation of registration to work with children, including immediate suspension, is mandatory in certain circumstances.

Submissions in response to the draft Bill open today and will close at midnight on 31 May 2024 and feedback received will inform the final version of the Bill which is expected to be tabled in Parliament in the week commencing 17 June 2024.

A copy of the draft Bill, supporting information explaining its content and details on how to make a submission are available on the Department of Justice website.

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