Research report into sentencing for child sexual abuse in institutional contexts released

Research report into sentencing for child sexual abuse in institutional contexts released

The Royal Commission has released a report that examines sentencing law and practice in Australia as it relates to institutional child sexual abuse.

The report was prepared by Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg from Monash University, Hugh Donnelly from the Judicial Commission of New South Wales and Dr Karen Gelb, a consultant criminologist.

Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said the report served to highlight the sentencing approaches that have been adopted in jurisdictions across Australia and overseas.

Mr Reed said that in addition to sentencing law and practice the report also looked at organisations themselves in the context of institutional child sexual abuse. “The study also considered the nature of organisational responsibility for institutional child sexual abuse and criminal offences that could be introduced to target institutional failures.”

“This report is the first major research report published as part of the Royal Commission’s work on criminal justice. This report provides a valuable contribution to our ongoing policy work in this area,” Mr Reed said.

“The report cautions that its intention is not to endorse a particular sentencing response but rather to highlight the approaches adopted across Australian and overseas jurisdictions,” Mr Reed said.

You can read the report via this link.

About the report


Sentencing for Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Contexts


Authors:

  • Professor Arie Freiberg
  • Mr Hugh Donnelly
  • Dr Karen Gelb

Key findings include:

  • Offenders who are convicted of offences relating to the care, supervision or authority of a victim often attract statutory aggravating factors such as breach of trust or abuse of authority and are more likely to receive longer sentences involving full-time custody.
  • Long delays between committing an offence and the prosecution, conviction and sentencing of an offender are common in cases of institutional child sexual abuse. The report finds that referring to sentencing principles and practices as they existed when the offence was committed is contentious and there is uncertainty around the practicality of this approach. The report notes that sentencing guidelines in the United Kingdom take a different approach and provide a useful opportunity for comparison.
  • The report considers a number of possible new offences relating to organisational criminal liability for institutional child sexual abuse, including offences of being negligently responsible for the commission of an offence, of failure to protect, of concealing crimes and of institutional child sexual abuse itself. The report argues that the individualistic orientation of criminal trials and sentencing fails to recognise organisational and institutional culpability.