Lawyers for abuse survivors have today welcomed an announcement from the Queensland Government regarding proposed new legislation to strengthen child sexual offence laws, including a new failure to report offence that will extend to the confessional.
Maurice Blackburn Queensland head of Abuse Law, Jed McNamara, said the proposed legislation was an important step in ensuring the protection of children and prompt reporting of allegations of abuse was made a priority across all institutions.
“Ensuring that allegations of abuse raised in the confessional are reported was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission, and we are pleased to see the Queensland Government acting on this important measure today,” Mr McNamara said.
“Introducing a new failure to report offence with a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment for failure to report abuse will send a strong message to institutions and to individuals that they must act quickly in responding to and addressing complaints of abuse.
“Sadly, we have seen such measures fiercely resisted by the Catholic Church in other states including most recently in Victoria.
“Such a position is untenable – no institution or organisation is above the law and we know from the Royal Commission that failure to report abuse and to act on complaints was a key issue in allowing systemic abuse to occur, sometimes for decades.
“This is particularly important given there are already a number of other professions who are obliged to report instances of abuse and there is no excuse for the Catholic Church to not be held to these same standards in ensuring that the safety of children is made a priority,” he said.
Mr McNamara also welcomed the proposed offence of failing to protect against institutional child sexual abuse announced today.