The Royal Commission is examining the criminal justice system in relation to child sexual abuse in institutions

This includes:

  • police investigation of allegations of institutional child sexual abuse
  • decision making processes regarding the prosecution of institutional child sexual abuse matters
  • evidence given by complainants
  • joint and separate trials with multiple allegations of institutional child sexual abuse
  • sentencing of offenders convicted of child sexual abuse occurring in institutional contexts

The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference require us to examine what institutions and governments should do to address the impacts of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. This includes ensuring justice for victims through the processes for referral for investigation and prosecution.

Consultation on model Bill to amend evidence laws

The Royal Commission released model legislation to amend evidence laws on 25 November 2016. The model Bill aims to allow for greater admissibility of tendency and coincidence evidence and facilitate more joint trials.

The model Bill provides a specific example of possible amendments to evidence laws. It is based in part on laws in England and Wales that allow for much greater admissibility of tendency and coincidence evidence and for more joint trials.

The model Bill has been drafted by the New South Wales Parliamentary Counsel’s Office, on instructions of Royal Commission staff, for the purposes of consultation.

A number of lawyers who will be witnesses in Case Study 46 starting on Monday 28 November 2016 will be asked to give their opinions about the draft legislation.

The Royal Commission also invites any interested person to provide comments on the model Bill. Comments can be provided by email to:

Consultation paper

The Royal Commission released a consultation paper on criminal justice issues on 5 September 2016 seeking input on various issues raised which will be used to inform our final report on criminal justice issues. View submissions.

Public Hearing

The Royal Commission held a public hearing in March 2016, which inquired into criminal justice issues relating to child sexual abuse in an institutional context.



The Royal Commission is holding a series of public and private roundtables with invited participants to discuss a range of criminal justice issues.

In February 2016, a series of private roundtables were held with invited participants from: police; public prosecutors; public defenders and Legal Aid services; and criminal justice policy agencies. Public and private roundtables were also held in April and June 2016. Another roundtable was held in March 2017.

Public Roundtables

Roundtable, March 2017, Sydney – Criminal Justice - Memory of childhood sexual abuse and the law
A roundtable was held on Friday 31 March in Sydney to discuss issues in relation to the memory of child sexual abuse and the law.

Roundtable, June 2016, Sydney – Criminal justice – Multi-disciplinary and specialist policing responses
A roundtable was held on Wednesday 15 June in Sydney to discuss multi-disciplinary and specialist policing responses.

Roundtable, April 2016, Sydney – Criminal justice – DPP complaints and oversight mechanisms
A roundtable was held on Friday 29 April in Sydney to discuss DPP complaints and oversight mechanisms.

Roundtable, April 2016, Sydney – Criminal justice – Adult sex offender treatment programs
A roundtable was held on Thursday 21 April in Sydney to discuss adult sex offender treatment programs.

Roundtable, April 2016, Sydney – Criminal justice – Reporting offences
A roundtable was held on Wednesday 20 April in Sydney to discuss reporting offences.

Issues Paper

The following Issues Paper relates to our work on criminal justice:


The Royal Commission’s research and policy agenda has a strong criminal justice focus.

Research projects commissioned to date explore a number of criminal justice issues.

Published research:

Other Publications

Jury Research

The Royal Commission launched the report of a major empirical study into how juries reason when deliberating on multiple counts of child sexual abuse. Using mock juries and a trial involving charges of child sexual abuse in an institutional context, Jury Reasoning in Joint and Separate Trials of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: An Empirical Study investigates whether conducting joint trials and admitting tendency evidence infringe on a defendant's right to a fair trial. 

Launch event in Sydney on 25 May 2016

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Criminal justice issues have been addressed in the following speeches by Royal Commission Chair Justice Peter McClellan:

A Royal Commission is the most significant method of inquiry available to governments. It may investigate individual and institutional conduct. It is often used to determine whether criminal conduct may have been committed.

Date: June 2 2016

Early in our work we identified Criminal Justice as a key issue for consideration by the Royal Commission.

Date: May 25 2016

Justice for victims is an elusive concept. In the civil context redress schemes providing modest money compensation without the need to prove a breach of a duty of care are commonly believed to be appropriate.

Date: March 31 2015

In 1984, John (not his real name), an 11 year old boy, started as a Year 7 boarder at a prestigious Sydney school.

Date: October 09 2014