Will the seals of Confessions made at Church remain unbroken?
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recently passed recommendations to the government for various reforms to be made. These reforms include introduction of “Child Champions” to support compliance and their families through legal processes. The NSW government is set to increase the maximum penalty for persistent sexual abuse of a child and introduce four new offences to protect children against abuse.
Persistent Child Sexual Abuse:
Pursuant to s66EA of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), it is now an offence (punishable up to 25 years imprisonment) for a person to engage in conduct relating to a particular child that constitutes a sexual offence on 3 or more separate days during any period.
Four New Offences:
The government proposes to enact the following new offences as soon as possible;
- Failure to report child abuse – maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment;
- Failure to protect a child from abuse – maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment;
- Grooming of an adult to gain access to a child – maximum penalty of 6 years imprisonment;
- Sexual touching of a child aged 16/17 and under, under the special care of the offender – maximum penalty of 4 years imprisonment.
Additional reforms also include precluding courts from considering an offender’s prior good character as mitigating factor during sentencing and requiring courts to apply current sentencing standards.
However, the main contention is whether the seal of Confession made at a Church will continue to remain unbroken?
Even before the Royal Commission had handed down their recommendation, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher had made it clear on Easter Sunday 2018 that Catholic leaders would keep the lid on that seal regardless of what the law said. Accordingly, despite allowing the Church to keep the seal of confessions of child sexual abuse, the NSW government believes that the new reform package will be a significant step towards protecting child of the future from abuse. This will be a huge milestone as far as the area of child sexual abuse is concerned and will hopefully mitigate the crime that continues to be committed over decades.
If you are aware of any person who has abused a child in any manner or if you encounter a child who confesses to you or it is brought to your attention that he/she has been abused, report it to the police as a matter of urgency.
If you wish to discuss any matter matter or the legalities relating to child sex abuse in any manner please do not hesitate to contact Freedman & Gopalan Solicitors on 02 8917 8700.