New Law in Victoria Makes it Compulsory to Report Child Sex Abuse

August 15, 2016 - 3 minutes read

children-playing-outsideRecently we posted an article on the ‘failure to protect’ legislation introduced by the Victorian State Government in 2015.

Another aspect of child protection legislation is the ‘failure to disclose’ offence. This new law puts a responsibility on all adults who hold a reasonable belief that child under 16 has been sexually abused by an adult, to report it to the police – unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so or where an exemption applies. The maximum penalty for failure to disclose is 3 years’ imprisonment.

Definitions

  • ‘Reasonable belief’ – this refers to a conclusion that would be drawn by any reasonable person and does not require proof or evidence for the abuse. This could for instance be based on observation of a child’s behaviour or from being told that abuse has occurred. It should not include unfounded or unreasonable suspicion.
  • ‘Reasonable excuse’ – there are essentially two of these:
    • Fear for safety – such as where a person genuinely believes that they or another person may be subject to violence from reporting the abuse.
    • Where the information has already been disclosed – that is where a report has already been made and there is no new information to add.
  • ‘Exemptions’ – there are a number of these, including:
    • The victim has asked for confidentiality.
    • The information is already publicly available.
    • The victim is now over 16 and has requested that it not be reported.
    • The information would be privileged – includes legal privilege and religious confessions.
    • The information is confidential – for example where a doctor is providing treatment for the victim.

It’s important to note that exemptions and excuses apply for reasons of safety and not placing the victim at even greater risk than before. The regulation also applies to past cases where the victim is still under 16.

The new legislation around this has some complexities and it’s important to become familiar with these. For more information, see the link below:

http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/safer+communities/protecting+children+and+families/failure+to+disclose+offence

Also see our other articles on child safety on the CCI website:

Failure to protect legislation
How safe is your church for kids?
Ansvar’s fact sheet on child sexual abuse
Responding to past allegations of abuse
How the ChildSafe system is free with your insurance

 

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