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On 5 July 2021, the Queensland Government made amendments to the Criminal Code that provide a greater protection to children from sexual abuse.
These amendments mandate adults in Queensland to report actual or suspected sexual offences against children, with only a few exceptions. In other words, this means that any adult who reasonably believes (or should reasonably believe) that a child is being or has been the victim of a child sexual offence must report it to the police, unless they have a reasonable excuse.
The new laws require offences to be reported should the adult have a ‘reasonable belief’ they occurred. Similarly, the adult is not required to report the offence if they have a ‘reasonable excuse’. A reasonable belief is the belief a reasonable person would form in the same position and circumstances. The new laws do not set a definition of what a reasonable excuse is for not reporting sexual abuse against a child, however, it is understood that a reasonable excuse example is if reporting the abuse will cause the child to be in more harm.
One key change of the amendments is that, in attempt to reduce abuse in institutional settings, information learnt or discovered during religious confessions (or alike) regarding sexual offences against children must now be reported to police. On this point, Queensland joins South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory in passing laws making it a criminal offence for priests to withhold disclosures of abuse of children.
Child sexual offences are harmful acts against children that can include, but are not limited to:
Under Queensland laws, a child is considered to be someone under the age of 16, or a person under the age of 18 with an impairment of the mind.
If you think a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation, call 000. To report an actual or suspected child sexual offence, call PoliceLink on 131 444. When calling, your details will be kept confidential if requested. You can choose to remain anonymous, however it is best to provide your contact details in case you are needed for assistance in any investigations.
Further to the above, these amendments also require anyone who learns information after 5 July 2021 that leads them to reasonably believe a sexual offence was committed in the past to report that information, unless they have a reasonable excuse. It doesn’t matter how long ago the abuse occurred. Even if the victim is now over 18 years of age, you are still required to report the offence to police unless you reasonably believe they do not want the information shared with police.
We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim, please reach out to the author and Littles Lawyers today.