Penalties for Pedophiles and The Need for Harsher Sentencing
Penalties for Pedophiles and The Need for Harsher Sentencing

The Australian Federal Court is planning tough new laws to force judges to jail pedophiles. This is the biggest reform of sex crime laws in Australia in 25 years.

The new measures are designed to be tougher on child sex offenders travelling overseas for the purpose of abusing children or using the internet to find victims.

Child Sexual Abuse Defined

If sexual abuse happens to any child under the age of 18, under Australian law, this would constitute child sexual abuse. According to The Australian Institute of Family Studies, child sexual abuse can be defined as “The involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and adolescents in sexual activities which they do not fully comprehend, are unable to give informed consent to and that violate social taboos of family roles.”

Current Laws in Regards to Child Sexual Abuse

Under current Australian law, it is a Commonwealth offence for child sex offenders that are registered as such to leave the country without law enforcement approval. Australians that are overseas and commit child sex offences can be investigated and prosecuted in Australia under Australian Law. Any sexual offense against a child is considered a criminal offence wherever the perpetrator is. Penalties include imprisonment of up to 25 years for individuals and up to $850,000 in fines for corporations. The latest bill would work to make penalties even more stringent.

Elements of the new Bill

The new Bill aims to improve justice outcomes and community safety via:

  • Mandatory minimum sentences for:
    • Serious child sex offenses
    • Recidivist offenders
  • Presumption against bail for serious or repeat offenders
  • Increase of maximum penalties, including up to life in prison for the most serious offenses
  • Presumptions in favour of cumulative sentences
  • Presumptions in favour of actual imprisonment
  • Upon release from custody, assurance that sex offenders are supervised and that appropriate rehabilitative conditions are met
  • Preventing courts from lessening sentences on the basis of good character where these very attributes are used to facilitate a crime

The law also creates new offences to catch those involved in evolving forms of child exploitation and abuse. For example, a website administrator of a URL that functions for the purpose of distributing material related to child abuse could be prosecuted under the new law.

The Australian government claims that under the old laws, one in three offenders is not being jailed. When jailing occurs, the average sentence is a mere 18 months.

According to Attorney-General Christian Porter, “It simply beggars that nearly a third of all child sex offenders who were sentenced last year were not required to spend a single day behind bars, despite the devastating and life-long impacts that their crimes have on their young victims and their families.”

Compensation for Sexually Abused Victims

As a victim of child sexual abuse, it does not matter when, where, or under what circumstances the abuse occurred. Anyone is entitled to seek justice and compensation for their suffering.

Child sexual abuse claims may be made by anyone who has experienced sexual abuse under 18 years of age.

Under the NSW Government’s Victim Support Scheme, victims are eligible to receive:

  • Up to 22 hours of counselling
  • Up to $5000 in immediate financial assistance for primary victims
  • Up to $30,000 in financial support and continuing costs for primary victims or parents of a child victim
  • Up to $10,000 in recognition payments depending on assault

Victims can apply for compensation as part of the Victim’s Support Scheme, but there are time limits in place for accessing certain parts of financial assistance. If the victim is an adult, for example, claims for financial assistance related to economic loss are required to be made within two years of the assault. If the victim was a child (under 18 years old), no time limits are imposed.

Given that different time limits can apply, it is imperative that victims act as soon as possible.

How AJB Stevens Can Help

If you or your child have been a victim of child sexual assault, whether the sexual abuse took place online or overseas, or right here in Australia, our dedicated lawyers can help you obtain your entitled compensation. If you or your child have been the victim of:

  • A religious organisation or order,
  • A professional in a position of trust,
  • A NSW Department of Community Services member, or
  • A teacher at a public or private school

We can give you advice!

Our team is wholly comprised of compassionate professionals. We understand most victims don’t come forward until they’ve reached early adulthood and we treat each claim with sensitivity and discretion.

Claims of this nature are often complex, which is why we have a dedicated team well versed in the legal frameworks to ensure fair compensation is awarded.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding child sexual assault, speak to the team at AJB Stevens today.