New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian will announce today a maximum life sentence for perpetrators of “persistent child sex abuse”.
The Australian reports the sentencing plan will also include a range of new offences that target anyone who fails to report child sex abuse or protect a child against abuse.
However, in a move that is sure to ruffle a few feathers, priests who hear confessions of pedophilia, but do not report it, may be exempt from the law. The royal commission is reportedly urging state governments to remove the protection surrounding confession in the Catholic Church.
The sentencing changes are in response to the government’s redress scheme, which offers financial compensation and counselling to sexual abuse victims named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“These historic reforms are designed to deliver survivors the justice they deserve and impose tougher penalties on offenders for their appalling abuse of children,” Berejiklian says in a statement to be released today, The Australian reported.
The new laws include four new offences: failure to report abuse of a child; failure to protect a child from abuse; grooming an adult to gain access to a child; and sexual touching of a child aged 16 or 17 who is under the offender’s special care.
According the publication, the maximum penalty under the new offences of failure to report and protect will be two years’ imprisonment. The grooming of an adult will be up to six years’ imprisonment and the sexual touching offence will carry a sentence of up to four years’ imprisonment.
NSW is one of two states, alongside Victoria, to opt in to the national redress scheme, which will provide survivors with a redress payment of up to $150,000.
Last month, Malcolm Turnbull announced that both Victoria and New South Wales had signed up to the federal government’s $3.8 billion scheme, which sees victims identified in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse compensated for their ordeal.
“Now we have a redress scheme, and it is vital … that all states and territories and all institutions, churches and charities sign up to it,” Turnbull told reporters.
“We owe it to the survivors for their courage in telling stories they have been too afraid to speak of, often for decades. Now that those stories have been told, now that they are on the record, we must do everything within our power to honour those stories and to act and to make sure that this national tragedy is never repeated.”
Victorian and NSW victims of abuse will be able to access the scheme from July 1.
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