Recently, Shine Lawyers was invited to make submissions to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry into the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019. The Bill aims to further protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse and to improve just outcomes for survivors of child sex offences.
Over the past 40 years, Shine Lawyers has represented thousands of survivors of child abuse. As such, we have a unique insight into the experiences of many survivors of child abuse; including their experiences in the criminal justice system. Our roles require us to speak with survivors every day - we hear of the horrifying abuse that they were subjected to, often by someone who they trusted or was in a position of authority or power over them. We hear of their struggles to deal with the effects of the abuse – how the abuse has insidiously affected all aspects of their lives. We hear of their struggles with holding perpetrators of these crimes to account and to be properly punished for what they did to them and what they took from them. We hear of the re-traumatisation that they endure as they attempt to seek some type of justice through the courts for what happened to them.
This is why Shine Lawyers supports the Bill’s measures to make it easier for vulnerable witnesses to give evidence, including:
- Removing the requirement to seek leave before a recorded interview of a vulnerable witness can be admitted as evidence in chief
- Preventing children and other vulnerable witnesses from being cross examined at committal proceedings.
Making it easier for victims
Shine Lawyers welcome changes so that vulnerable witnesses, such as children, are better protected against unnecessary harm during court processes. The recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made many recommendations to ensure that vulnerable people are better protected against unnecessary harm during court processes.
The Royal Commission also recommended a number of special measures in relation to victims of child sexual abuse giving evidence in criminal justice proceedings. These measures should be available for all complainants in child sexual abuse proceedings, including adults in proceedings involving historical allegations.
Supporting vulnerable people who are giving evidence is vitally important in securing the conviction of a perpetrator and during sentencing. Investing in programs that support people giving evidence will show results in conviction rates.
Our clients regularly tell us that the way they were treated when reporting the abuse is more meaningful than any payment or sentence, so we should ensure that we support and respect survivors of sexual abuse right from the beginning.
As lawyers who work with child abuse survivors every day, we see the devastating impacts of child abuse, and are passionate about doing as much as we can to protect children in our community. Our clients often express difficulty coming to terms with what they feel are inadequate sentences for perpetrators of child sexual abuse. This is why we also support legislative change which strengthens the penalties for child sexual offences, and brings them more in line with society’s understanding of the seriousness of these crimes and the lifelong impact it has on the victims.
Abuse and technology
The Bill also outlines new offences to better reflect the emerging ways technology is being used to perpetrate abuse. This includes new offences for “grooming” of third parties, including by using a carriage service, and a new offence to hold carriage services accountable for providing electronic services that facilitate dealings with child abuse material.
We welcome these specific changes that make it easier for survivors to seek a fair outcome and real justice for the horrendous abuse suffered.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: November 7, 2019.