Adults face jail for not reporting sexual abuse

Journalists are compelled to report disclosures of child sexual abuse under the Queensland laws (Bigstock)

New laws in Queensland that could jail adults for not telling police about the sexual abuse of a child have raised criticism from legal and academic circles about potential ethical dilemmas and how they will be enforced. Source: Courier-Mail.

The laws, introduced last month, require all adults to report known or suspected sexual offences against a person under the age of 16, or a person with an impairment.

The laws were designed to force Catholic priests to break the seal of confession and implement recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Concerns have been raised as to how they could be applied to other professions.

Under the laws, people need to have a reasonable excuse not to report the sexual abuse, such as if the disclosure of information could endanger them or another person.

Another reason could be if the child becomes an adult and the person being told the information “reasonably believes” the victim does not want details disclosed.

High-profile solicitor Bill Potts said the laws were designed to break the seal of confession for Catholic priests but also created ethical dilemmas for many professions.

Mr Potts said that while legal professional privilege still applies, priests, doctors and journalists will have an obligation to report abuse to police or risk a three-year jail sentence.

He gave the example of a journalist interviewing someone who then disclosed they were abused as a child. Under the new laws, the journalist would be obliged to report it to police.

Bond University professor and former police detective Terry Goldsworthy said the laws were poorly formed, had not been explained, and questioned what extra resources police would get if there was an upsurge in complaints.


Adults now face up to three years’ jail for not reporting sexual abuse (By Thomas Chamberlin, Courier-Mail

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