The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has released a consultation paper on criminal justice issues in child sexual abuse cases.
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said it was hoped that the consultation paper, and submissions to it, would identify areas where reform may be necessary to ensure justice is better served in child sexual abuse cases.
“The aim of our policy work in this area is to understand the contemporary response of the criminal justice system to institutional child sexual abuse and to identify ways it can be made more effective,” Mr Reed said.
“Criminal justice responses need to be available to all victims and survivors who are able to seek them. Additionally, survivors need to be properly supported in this process."
“A criminal justice response enables the community to condemn the abuse and punish the perpetrator. The criminal justice system needs to be fair for the complainant, as well as being fair to the accused.”
Mr Reed said survivors should be encouraged to seek a criminal justice response as an important way of increasing the knowledge and awareness in the community at large that such abuse happens, and the circumstances in which it happens.
“A criminal justice response is important to survivors not only in relation to seeking justice on a personal level, but also to encourage reporting of child sexual abuse and prevent child sexual abuse in the future.”
The criminal justice consultation paper draws from the Royal Commission’s Case Study 38 public hearing on criminal justice. During this hearing, participants considered issues such as when a joint trial may be held to determine charges against an accused made by multiple complainants of child sexual abuse, or when other evidence of an accused’s “bad character” should be admissible in court.
The Royal Commission also published a significant study on these issues, after examining how mock juries reason when deliberating on multiple counts of child sexual abuse.
Mr Reed said based on this work by the Royal Commission and other materials it has considered, the Commissioners were now reasonably satisfied that current laws needed reform to allow more cross-admissibility and the Royal Commission remained open to submissions on the issue.
The consultation paper also seeks submissions on matters such as police communication and their response to reporting of child sexual abuse; child sexual abuse offences and third-party offences; prosecution responses and delays; how victims can give evidence in court; and sentencing.
Read the consultation paper.
All interested parties are encouraged to make written submissions responding to the paper. Written submissions should be made by Monday, 17 October 2016 and can be submitted electronically to contactus [at] childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au
Interested parties are welcome to make submissions responding to only one or a few issues, or to make submissions responding to all issues.
Feedback on the issues outlined in the consultation paper will help inform recommendations the Royal Commission may make in order to provide better support for survivors of child sexual abuse going through the criminal justice system.