Criminal offence recommendations send strong message institutional abuse can no longer be ignored

14 August 2017
Recommendations to reform Australia’s criminal justice system, including making failure to report in religious confessionals a criminal offence, are critical measures that must be supported in sending a strong message that abuse within institutions can no longer be ignored, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said today.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal Michelle James said that as the countless stories told to the Royal Commission had made clear, for too long institutions had turned a blind eye to abuse, and it was evident a stronger approach was needed to ensure such claims were no longer ignored.

“For decades institutions have chosen not to act on abuse allegations, and the consequences of this inaction for abuse survivors has been devastating,” Ms James said.

“The Royal Commission has rightly identified that the continued failure of institutions to report allegations of abuse or to protect children is unacceptable, and that such failures have let down abuse survivors.

“It is only right therefore that a failure to report concerns of abuse is met with a criminal offence – we must send a strong message that not only are such failures completely out of step with community expectations, they are also out of step with the law, with serious consequences for not acting on abuse allegations or concerns.

“Religious institutions in particular have repeatedly been found to have put their reputations ahead of doing the right thing in acting on abuse, and we urge all states and territories to support the Royal Commission’s recommendation to ensure that failure to report as an offence is also extended to religious confessionals,” she said.

Ms James said this latest report had again reinforced the vital role the Royal Commission had continued to play in shining a light on systemic abuse within Australian institutions.

“The Royal Commission has given a voice to survivors and their families, many of who have spent decades fighting for recognition of abuse that has occurred.

“Today’s report is further evidence of the vital role the Royal Commission has played, not only in ensuring that Australia’s civil and redress schemes are better able to fairly respond to abuse claims, but in also making sure our criminal justice system is able to take strong action in addressing institutionalised abuse,” she said.  

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