Australia to see 'toughest crackdown on paedophiles' in 25 years

Mandatory minimum sentencing will be among the changes introduced in the new bill.

The federal government has launched what it’s called the “toughest crackdown on paedophiles in a generation”, with the biggest overhaul in 25 years of national laws related to child sex offences.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan will introduce legislation to parliament this week aimed at better punishing people convicted of committing child sex offences online and overseas – areas that fall outside state legislation. Commonwealth law deals with, for example, people who groom children online, those that transmit child pornography, and those that travel outside Australia to commit child sex offences.

Keenan’s new laws will see mandatory sentencing introduced for people convicted of child sex offences and a presumption against bail and parole for people charged with and convicted of such offences.

“There’s no such thing as a minor commonwealth child sex crime – if you’re convicted of that, you’ve been convicted of a very serious offence,” he told Sky News.

“But the sentencing people are getting is not reflective of that … We don’t believe that’s acceptable, we want to have a minimum sentence imposed on these people in a mandatory way … so if you’re committing one of these offences, if you destroy the life of a child, then you account for it by serving serious prison time.”

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The minister said just 60 percent of convicted offenders were currently sentenced to jail time, and that of that 60 per cent, the average time served was only six months. Instead, he wants courts to be forced to set a minimum sentence of 25 per cent of the maximum jail time the offence carries.

The Herald Sun explained that, for example, grooming a child online for sexual activity carried a maximum penalty of 15 years, so Keenan’s minimum sentencing guidelines would see a convicted offender sentenced to almost four years at an absolute minimum.

Other reports said that judges would also be prevented from using an offenders standing in the community to hand down a reduced sentence, if the offender had used that standing to help them commit the crime. The new laws would carry a presumption of cumulative sentencing for multiple offences and improve court processes that were currently traumatic for child victims, the reports said.

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Keenan told Today today that he hoped legislation to be passed by the end of the year. 

He told Today that the federal government would not be able to give the public access to a national database of child sex offenders, but did not rule out the possibility entirely. Instead, he said that he had discussed the concept with his state counterparts and that it would have to be implemented on a state-by-state basis.

Do you think these changes are enough, or too little too late?