The McGowan Government is considering sweeping new laws that could see any adult in Western Australia who fails to report knowledge of child sexual abuse sent to jail. Source: The West Australian.
The “failure to report” offence would cover all adults and would complement incoming laws that will force Catholic priests to break the seal of the confession to report being told of abuse.
A new discussion paper from WA’s Department of Justice shows the Government has accepted in principle a proposal to create a new failure to report law that would cover all adults — not just priests, teachers, doctors or others with direct responsibility for children.
Under an example given in the paper of how the new laws would function, a small business owner could be charged if a teenage girl employed in the company revealed she had been sexually assaulted by a step-parent, but the employer did not then tell police.
The laws would capture all persons within a child’s family and domestic environment, including family members friends and associates.
Under laws in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, people can be jailed for between three to five years for the failure to report an offence.
While the paper notes the laws would result in more people outing offenders, it also warns it would create a huge increase in workloads for police dealing with a spike in reports.
Attorney-General John Quigley said the Government supported the intent of the policy underlying the proposal.
“We will consider how this can best be achieved and implemented. The discussion paper is the first step towards the implementation of important criminal law reform to provide further protection and safety for WA children,” Mr Quigley said.
The McGowan Government has promised laws by the end of the year that will force priests to report to police if they are told of abuse during confession.
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB opposes the incoming bill and has warned the laws risk “interfering with the free practice of the Catholic faith”.