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Mandatory jail sentences for child sex offenders

The Commonwealth Attorney General has on 3 September 2019 issued the following media release in relation to mandatory sentences for child sex offenders:

The Hon. Christian Porter MP
Attorney-General
Minister for Industrial Relations
Leader of the House

The Hon. Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Home Affairs

Paedophiles would face mandatory jail sentences and the most serious offenders could be jailed for life under sweeping changes to Federal sentencing laws to be introduced to Parliament next week.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019 will also make it harder for serious offenders to get bail, while repeat offenders will have to stay in prison for longer.

The Bill reflects the Morrison Government’s commitment to keeping Australians safe and creates new offences to capture evolving forms of child exploitation such as being the administrator of a website that functions for the purpose of distributing child abuse material.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said 28 per cent of child sex offenders convicted of federal offences in 2018-19 did not spend one day in jail – a statistic totally out of step with community expectations.

“It simply beggars belief that nearly a third of all child sex offenders who were sentenced last year were not required to spend a single day behind bars, despite the devastating and life-long impacts that their crimes have on their young victims and their families,” the Attorney-General said.

“And when jail terms were handed out, the average length of time that offenders spent in custody was just 18 months.

“The changes being introduced by the Morrison Government will ensure that a jail term becomes the starting point for all child sex offenders, while maximum penalties will also be increased to better reflect the gravity of these types of crimes, including a new life term for the worst offenders.” Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the Australian Federal Police received almost 18,000 reports of child exploitation involving Australian children or Australian child sex offenders last year, which was almost double the number from the previous year.

“Sentences need to reflect community expectations and act as a significant deterrent to others, which is why these sorts of despicable crimes must result in significant penalties, not simply a slap on the wrist which is often the case,” Mr Dutton said.

“Our Government is at war with these predators and all those who would seek to do harm to children.

“The message we are sending to paedophiles is that it won’t matter how good their lawyer is, a prison cell will be waiting for them when they are convicted. This is what the community expects and this what the Morrison Government intends to deliver.

“I would urge the Labor Party, who failed to support these reforms in the last Parliament, to listen to the Australian People and put community safety first when it comes time to vote on this Bill.” The Bill complements a broad package of reforms already introduced by the Coalition during the last Parliament, which strengthened laws relating to child sexual abuse and created new protections for the community.

This included tough new measures to stop child sex offenders from travelling overseas to abuse children and the introduction of Carly’s law, which targets online predators who use the internet to prepare or plan to sexually abuse children.

The new Bill will vastly improve justice outcomes and community safety through:

Mandatory minimum sentences for serious child sex offences and for recidivist offenders
A presumption against bail for serious and repeat offenders to keep them off the streets
Increased maximum penalties across the spectrum of child sex offences, including up to life imprisonment for the most serious offences
Presumptions in favour of cumulative sentences and actual imprisonment
Ensuring that all sex offenders, upon release from custody, are adequately supervised and subject to appropriate rehabilitative conditions
Preventing courts from discounting sentences on the basis of good character where this is used to facilitate the crime.

The Bill will be introduced to Parliament next Wednesday.