Obligation to Report

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Generally, adults now have a positive obligation to report instances of sexual assaults perpetrated against children to police.

This is following amendment to the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld), where the adult reasonably believes, or should reasonably believe, that a child is being or has been the victim of sexual abuse. Children are defined as people under the age of sixteen or under the age of eighteen if they suffer an impairment.

This requirement, which came into effect on 5 July 2021, applies in addition to existing mandatory reporting obligations to those with child protection responsibilities under the Child Protection Act 1999, including teachers, doctors, registered nurses, police officers and the like. 

 

Reporting of offences that occurred in the past

If you receive information after 5 July 2021 that leads you to reasonably believe a sexual offence has been committed against a child and you don’t have a reasonable excuse for not reporting, you must report it—even if the abuse happened a long time ago.

If you received the information before 5 July 2021, you do not have to report it under the new laws. However, if the victim is currently under 18, you may need to report it under other reporting obligations, such as to Child Safety if the mandatory reporting laws apply to you.

Even if you have no legal obligation to report the information, you can still choose to report it to the police.

 

What to report

Childhood sexual abuse is broadly defined to include indecent treatment of a child, carnal knowledge, rape, incest, grooming, making child exploitation material and maintaining a sexual relationship with a child. 

Information received through religious ceremonies, such as confession, is not exempted. 

Limited exceptions to the positive general reporting obligation do, however, exist. That is, the individual who receives information must have a reasonable excuse not to report the abuse to police. Of likely the greatest relevance is where the abuse has already been reported to the police, or where the victim, who must now be an adult as opposed to a child, does not wish for the abuse to be reported.

Failure to abide by the mandatory reporting obligation carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment. 

 

Practical information

Whilst this amendment is applicable to all people in the community, it has most relevance for counsellors, doctors, lawyers, sports coaches and those generally working with children and young adults.

To avoid any possible prosecution, adults (particularly those working with children, presently or in the past) who come into receipt of this information should keep detailed file notes of their interactions, seek immediate legal advice, and make the disclosure to police as soon as required.


This article is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require further information, advice or assistance for your specific circumstances, please contact the Fisher Dore team.

 

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